One of the many conflicts that can arise when caregiving for an older adult is how self-aware they are. How much do they feel they are capable of versus how much they are capable of?
My friend had grandparents who were in their 80s and doing alright for themselves, but definitely not heeding what their bodies were telling them. The grandfather insisted on getting up on the roof and cleaning the gutters – until his children convinced him not to (mostly by doing it themselves). This was part of what led to a larger discussion about whether or not owning a house was still a good idea for them. They had much more space than they needed, but the couple still enjoyed owning a home. This argument continued in the family for months, before the grandfather slipped on the front step while it was covered in ice and broke his hip.
At that point, the grandparents agreed that perhaps it was time to move into an assisted living facility. And they love it. The complex is large and has several different levels of care. They’re in the lowest level of assistance and have complete independence. This complex even has a few guest rooms where family members can stay for free when they visit.
Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a tragedy to open the eyes of a senior, to help them realize that while they may feel and act young at heart (and they should!) they do need to understand their limits. A time of crises is not when you want to be making life-changing decisions. If possible, gently, and without any specific timelines, speak to your senior about what their plans are when they are not as capable as they currently are. If you approach the topic with love, they may just listen.
Today is actually National Father-In-Law Day. Do you have father-in-law that you love? Are you currently caring for one of your parents-in-law? Helping to care for the person or persons who raised your spouse, welcomed you into their family and have been a wonderful grandparents can be the perfect way to give back and help. But sometimes conflicts can arise from helping those outside of your immediate family.
Oftentimes, a married couple will be a team, helping to take care of one or another’s parents. But depending on careers, personalities and traditional roles, the wife can be the one more likely to end up caring for her husband’s parents. And that in turn can lead to resentment. What can be done to help with couples make the best of these situations?
All caregivers should know that some people take to caregiving better than others. Caregiving is not for everyone. Each spouse needs to be aware of this and try to determine if they are capable of providing care for an elderly parent. If they discover that the work is more than hard (all caregivers, even if they love their role, find the work hard) but is making them miserable for a variety of reasons, they need to have an open discussion about that with their spouse, and the other spouse needs to respect their feelings on providing care.
If one spouse is determined to be able to care better for the elderly parents, and agrees to do so, the other spouse needs to be extremely supportive to them. Keep this mantra in mind: If you can’t BE a caregiver, SUPPORT a caregiver.