For anyone who has stepped up to help a loved one, you know how hard it can be.
Your loved one is fighting for independence, purpose, and typically has no recognition of the help they need. It took me a year to really figure out how to better navigate the support my parents needed but didn’t recognize.
I learned that I had to be the one to adapt. For someone with a cognitive issue that they most likely don’t fully recognize, they are going to be unable to adapt.
Years ago when I was still working in Corporate America, we had a consultant come in to help the company function better. One of the things we learned was to always give your team mates the assumption they are working to help you. As you can imagine, we had some internal struggles and this idea did help us start to have dialogue around where we were trying to go and how to get there now assuming we were all going to the same place. It was a game-changer, at least for me, and I still carry on this philosophy in all I do.
One of the things I did learn on my caregiving journey was to sit with my parents, and mostly my Mom, and do things in tandem. While early on the first thought was to take away the checkbook, I changed to a system where I would come and sit with my Mom to help her with the bills. Eventually, she just handed over the checkbook and asked me to take care of the bills for her.
That first year was REALLY difficult and I don’t think I ever cried so much in my life. It was frustrating, heartbreaking, and thankless.
After I changed to approach my role differently, things went a lot smoother.
YES. The time I needed to spend with my parents to help them DOUBLED. It takes way less time to do things solo, but the reality was that my parents wanted to participate.
One day, I walked into my parents apartment, and found the note I have included in this post. “Dear Kay, So thoughtful and loving for you to take us on — as if you don’t already have enough to do.” My Mom was not a gushy lady. Reading this still brings tears of joy and grief to my eyes.
There were some things I could have done differently but I did the best I could. I operated on the assumption that it was an honor and duty to help my parents. In the end, I was surprised to find that my Mom recognized the love behind my support for them.
Even if they are unable to tell you, assume there is appreciation for the support you are offering.
I meet many older adults today who hire me and my agency to help them because they don’t have family to help. The stories I hear are often heart-breaking and they feel very alone.
I wanted to remind you that the people you are helping are lucky to have you. What you do might not always be the perfect option, but it’s okay because you are working on finding the best path forward together. Appreciated.