By Marsha Kay Seff
The other day when my friend visited her 88-year-old mother in her retirement home and told her — again — that she couldn’t live on chocolate alone, her mom gave her “the finger.”
Not funny after all Jane had done for her mom, including inviting her into her home for two years, then finding her a succession of appropriate retirement facilities as needed. But I did laugh when I heard the story.
Much of caregiving is frustrating and unrewarding. Often, it’s just plain tough. And we’re certainly not always appreciated for our efforts.
None of us adult children had the luxury of sitting down and deciding whether we wanted the job. It just landed on our plates.
But take on the job we did — some more graciously than others. And I suspect that many envy siblings who choose not to pitch in.
Family caregivers do this often thankless job for an assortment of reasons. We believe we owe it to our parents. We feel responsible for them, because someone needs to be. We’d feel guilty if we didn’t step in. Many see the job as an honor.
If we’re lucky, we love our parents and really want to help. And if we’re very lucky, we find some pleasure, satisfaction and joy in the job.
When I first started caring for my parents, my mom and I argued a lot. Eventually, I realized that as long as I was doing the job, it didn’t make sense for both of us to be miserable. This ah-hah moment made things easier for both of us most of the time.
Sure, Mom resented the fact that she’d lost much of her independence and was increasingly dependent on me for her health and welfare. But because of the inevitability, we tried to see the positives.
I made sure we had fun when we were together. When I had to make a decision she didn’t like, we both tried to laugh about it:
“I’m still the mother,” she used to say.
“Yes, but I get the big bucks for making the big decisions,” I answered. “Besides, I’m always right.”
If you’re as fortunate as I was, you’re able to enjoy parts of this roller coaster journey. You might get to know your parents better. You might even garner some insight into why you ended up the way you have. In the end, you’ll probably be satisfied that you did your best.
Like me, your parents might tell you how much you’re loved and appreciated. You might never get “the finger.”
Sponsored by Right at Home In-Home Care & Assistance, www.rahencinitas.com, 619-200-2110, firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Marsha Kay Seff at email@example.com.