Posted November 08, 2012 by Maryjo Cleveland, M.D.
This post is meant for those of you who consider yourselves ultra-caregivers. You attend all of your kid's soccer games, dance recitals and parent-teacher conferences. You make sure to serve well-balanced meals that you sit down together as a family and enjoy. You know your kids friends, and your house is the place where they hang out. You bring baked goods to meetings, you organize fundraisers, and you find it hard to say "no" when people ask for your time.
It's not just the kids that you care for. You notice that your mom or dad are starting to experience difficulty with certain tasks, so you begin to do their grocery shopping, pay a few bills, and go to some doctors appointments with them. Your parent starts to notice the same thing, and they are worried about the future.
One day, the two of you are chatting over a cup of coffee, and the conversation gets serious. They are concerned about what will happen when they can't live alone anymore. You are about to open your mouth to reassure your mom or dad. You are about to say the 10 words you don't have to say: "I promise I'll never put you in a nursing home."
Those words are kind, and they will make you and your mom or dad feel better. The problem is, it's a promise that you may not be able to keep, and is one that binds you like a rope. If you break the promise, none of my words as a geriatrician will help take the guilt away.
None of us can predict the future. And as good as we are at caregiving for our parents and loved ones, there may be situations that are out of your control. Behavior, physical and financial problems are just some of the issues that can get in the way of our best intentions.
I have different words for you to say to your mom or dad. The words are: "I promise you will always be well cared for." I suggest that you repeat them to yourself and memorize them, so that when that conversation over coffee happens, you can provide the reassurance that your parent needs. This promise allows you to take advantage of all of the range of options that you may need in order to be an effective caregiver. This promise will free you and allow you to still feel like the ultra-caregiver that you are. This is a promise you can keep.
Below are some helpful links for caregivers:
Maryjo Cleveland, M.D.
Senior Services at Summa Health System