Caregiving or Enabling?

pushI’m intrigued to listen and learn from those of you who have a healthy parent and are helping them care for loved one. Several of you face many of the same frustrations my siblings and I faced:

  1. Refusal to make changes to status quo living.
  2. Dismissal of concerns regarding current situation.

We want to help, but get lured into thinking if we comply with the things wanted, we build trust to help them make the real changes they should be making.

In my experience, helping someone maintain a poor living decision doesn’t create a pool of good will, it just lengthens the time before the critical incident happens so you can make the needed change for better health and safety.

I vividly recall my mom calling me one evening to come over and help with dad, “it’s urgent!” I was so hungry to hear my parents ask for help, I would jump the moment they requested assistance. However, this was the third alarm this week and I happened to be on my way to take the kids for their flu shots. I had to decide if I was going to serve my parents over my kids. The fact that I kept responding to my parents alarms was wearing on my marriage. I needed to realign my priorities, and in effect, I was spending a lot of time keeping their status quo afloat.

After this incident, I decided to step back and let them fail.The next time my mom called with an emergency, I told my mom to call 911. This event helped illustrate the depth of the problems my parents had functioning and it turned into a 3-day stay at the hospital for my dad. Until this incident, most of my concerns about my parents were dismissed by my siblings. To be fair, my parent’s were good at putting on a good show when my siblings came to visit. I realized that my constant involvement was allowing my parents to continue with their status quo lifestyle.

Once I had made the decision to give up, I mentally detached myself just as my siblings were starting to engage. I was so weary at the this point, I told my siblings they needed to deal with it. The resulting conversations with my siblings resulted in me re-engaging, but now, my siblings were part of the support system for me. We set up regular phone calls, scheduled interventions, and moved toward solutions to keep our parents cared for and safe.

What I learned was that there is a fine line between enabling and being an involved adult family caregiver. Is now a good time to figure out where you might be? Asked.


9 thoughts on “Caregiving or Enabling?

  1. I didn’t have the same experience. My parents never asked for help or told me much of anything even though they moved to my city to be near me. My mom had been suffering from a “migraine” for example days and I had to beg my dad to see her. A few days later he called to say she had fallen and he couldn’t get her up. My husband and I rushed over, assessed the scene and decided to call 911. My dad screamed at me that we would not call. Eats arrived and took her to the hospital where it was determined she had sepsis. While in the hospital she had a minor stroke and then was diagnosed with dementia. Later I found out she had been on the floor for four hours!!

    After a couple months in the hospital and rehab she decided to go home against everyone’s wishes. My dad told me they had decided whatever catastrophe occurred, she would die at home. He ended up calling the fire department for assistance 4 times in 6 days. By then it was out of our hands. The county became involved and she was put in a nursing home against her wishes.

  2. When I look back I wonder to what extent I have disabled my wife. There have clearly been times when it has been expedient to do things for her rather than coaching her to retain certain functional abilities. I fear this is all academic now as her condition means that she is very limited in what she can safely do for herself.

  3. Sometimes you have to step back and wait for something really bad to happen before you can help them. A social worker told us that, and it has been true in our case 🙁

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