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.