What If Caregiving Just Isn't for Me?
"My parents are getting older, and I’m afraid I’m not going to be much help to them in their later years. I am a rather impatient individual, and I can’t see myself driving them from one appointment to another, taking them shopping, or helping them with household chores. Personally, I have all of those things done by someone else. I do not clean, nor do I grocery shop. I cannot even imagine helping someone bathe or dress. All of these caregiving-type tasks simply do not appeal to me.
Don’t get me wrong—I love my parents. I just do not want to be a caregiver. Do I tell them this now so they can make other plans, or do I wait to see what happens?" - READER
I guess it is good to know yourself. There are individuals who have no patience and are simply not easy to be around, and maybe that’s you. They leave the caregiving to siblings, and are conveniently absent when decisions need to be made or work needs to be managed, effectively washing their hands of any role in the process. If this is your plan, all I can say is heaven forbid you age and need some support.
If you’re not willing to physically assist, or help make arrangements from soup to nuts, you’re taking a significant stance. You’re basically stating that while you may visit, you’ll do nothing to support or help in any way. If you love your parents as you say, then let them know what you are willing to do, if anything.
Caregiving is more than shopping or bathing. Some parents eventually need help to pay the bills, make healthcare decisions, attend family events, sell their home, and more. None of us want to step in and do the things our parents once did for us because after all, they’re the parents. It’s their job to take care of us, and then we get to just live our lives—or so we think. The reality can be a bit different if your parents are blessed with a long life. Ask anyone who lost a parent prematurely what they would give to have their parent around longer, even if it means needing to care for them.
You say you’re impatient, though I suspect you really just don’t want the additional work. In your personal life, you’d rather pay for the help. You could offer to help your parents make arrangements for outside help or pay for the help rather than do it personally. That is what caregiving looks like-- planning and figuring out how to meet the needs of another person. Sometimes we do it ourselves and sometimes we figure out how to get it done—I call that arranging.
If you’re lucky enough to have siblings willing to do all the work and let you off, that’s nice. The reality is that you’re not really off the hook. Their resentment toward you will be significant, so do yourself a favor and don’t be someone who uses excuses.
Another option to consider is offering your siblings your share of the inheritance to do your share of the caregiving. You could arrange to pay them a proportionate amount for the work you’re unwilling to do.
All in all, it’s good to know yourself. Be honest with your parents and siblings so that plans can be made and relationships can be maintained as positive and loving.
I wish you well on this journey we call life.
Family Caregiving Advice Column
Written by CEO, Mary Haynor, this newsletter is packed with useful tips, resources and practices that will make the lives of family caregivers easier.Learn More...
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