Saturday, November 8, 2008

Elder Care, Stress and Ego

The issue I wrote about last time had to do with handling the guilt of not being able to do everything you, as caregiver, think needs to be done for your elderly parent. There was a great comment from Linda in response to my last post. She advises something which I hadn't thought about: think about how your parents see themselves and then try to do what's needed to support their vision of themselves, rather than your vision of them.

This is a wise statement in a very simple form.

I think that in order to implement this, you have to take some of your ego out of the picture. In some respects, elder care giving for parents can become weirdly competitive. Here are some hypothetical examples, just to explain my point: So-and-so's parents are 99 and still able to live at home, but yours have been in assisted living for years and are only in their 80s. Or, so-and-so's parents have so many friends and go out visiting all the time, but yours can't seem to get along with anyone and spend their time alone.

I'm making this up, but you can see where it leads. As we talk to each other about our respective situations, inevitably comparisons crop up. I don't know about you, but I do find myself feeling wistful when I think someone else's setup is so much more together and fulfilling than mine. And I start to wonder then whether I should be doing things differently or if I could do things better.

If I do a good job of thinking in the terms that Linda suggests, I'll be able to refocus on the fact that the way things are set up for my elderly mother, who has dementia, are really ideal for her. They're not going to change her into the sort of elderly person I wish she could be, but they are perfect for her as she is. And, after all, that's the point, isn't it?

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