What if You Just Hate the Job?
“I knew of a woman who opened her home to her aged mother when it was determined ‘mother’ could no longer live by herself… both the woman and her husband were utterly miserable because ‘mother’ was so hateful….There were almost daily altercations….Because this woman wouldn’t allow her mother to completely run the house, ‘mother’ went and complained to another relative about how unhappy she was…’mother’ announced to her daughter she had found somewhere else to live; the daughter and her husband were ecstatic over the prospect of ‘mother’ leaving because they knew it meant they would get their peaceful home back. Meanwhile, after a second failed living arrangement, ‘mother’ wound up in a nursing home….When she got ugly, it was with the nursing home staff rather than her family members who…were completely unable to work with her.”
[Excerpt from Everything I Wish I Had Known: Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s or Other Dementia
Chapter 5, “Safety”]
Many of us who are (or have been) caregivers take on the job because we truly love the one who needs care. That was certainly the case with my grandparents; we had such a wonderful relationship that it would have seemed crazy for me to not help them once they were diagnosed with dementia.
Unfortunately, not everyone has that same experience. I’ve heard of many people who struggle with the caregiver role more than usual because they have hard feelings or a strained relationship with the care recipient. There are several reasons tension can exist between the two parties.
Rivalry between siblings can be bad enough, but if a parent—knowingly or unknowingly—is elevating one sibling above the other it can lead to an unimaginably toxic environment. Childhood tensions of this nature can make the caregiver role in adulthood feel unbearable.
Abuse in the Past
Christian teacher and author Joyce Meyer candidly shares that her father sexually abused her while she was growing up. In her case, it was only after having walked through forgiving him—a result of her relationship with Jesus Christ—that she was able to step in to provide care for both of her parents.
An Overbearing, Manipulative Parent
Adult caregivers who grew up with a hyper-controlling parent may struggle with severe feelings of inadequacy—absolutely certain they aren’t doing the job “right” under the domineering parent’s critical eye.
Caregivers often feel “stuck” with the role’s responsibilities rather than feeling a desire to help out based on love and respect. This makes a job that’s already brutally difficult even harder. So, how is a caregiver supposed to cope with emotions that feel utterly soul-crushing?
- If your loved one is being cared for in your home, utilize adult day care centers, home health agencies and volunteers who can stay with your loved one while you take a break
- If you find your own physical or mental well-being is consistently compromised, consider long-term care solutions such as assisted living or possibly a nursing home. Placement in long-term care does not mean you don’t love them or that you’re trying to shirk your responsibility; it just means you’re establishing healthy boundaries to provide the best possible outcome for everyone involved
- If possible, ask siblings and/or other family members to share the care responsibilities
- Regularly see a professional therapist who can help you navigate the strong—and very genuine—emotions you’re experiencing
Every situation will have a number of factors to consider in determining which care option is best; but realistically, “best” has to include everyone—the care recipient, the caregiver’s immediate family, as well as the primary caregiver. It’s imperative that we understand caregiving is not a “one size fits all” experience.