Friday, November 6, 2009

Statistics and Family Situations

I found out a few years ago, that I am a statistic, a daughter who carries the responsibility of taking care of the elderly parent. I am one of the 76 percent of family caregivers who are women, and receive no help from their male family members. In my case that would be referring to my brothers as my sisters are both gone. My husband helps me with mom. Without his help, mom would never have been able to stay here in her home, because I couldn’t do it alone.

As for my family, even if my sisters were both alive, I don’t know how much help they would have been, what kind of commitment and sacrifice they would have been willing to make. My oldest brother lives across the county, so he can’t help physically, but some financial assistance would be helpful. He doesn’t call or write mom either. The last time he visited her, he shook her hand…shook her hand! I couldn’t believe my eyes. But that shows there are issues he has not resolved concerning his relationship with mom, and it looks like he won’t be either. I have another brother who lives minutes away. He has not really helped out until recently, his wife has not helped at all. We have had communication this year which has opened up things more for us and I can call on him on occasion to sit for a couple hours if mom is in bed.

I don't believe he can really deal with how she has changed these past years, and I understand that, most sons can’t. Not that it has been easy for me either, but I do what I have to do and I deal with it. His help would be appreciated in doing some things on mom’s house, he has enough skills to help my husband, but he is very tied up with his family.

Not having help from my brother’s had been very frustrating and caused me to have to deal with a lot of anger for several years. I have done quite a bit of reading on the subject, trying to make sense of how sons or daughters can not help with their elderly parent or parents, and not even visit them. I did make peace with myself over the matter, and accepted who they are and why, and I was only hurting myself by being angry with them, and I didn't need that negativity going on inside me with everything else I dealt with.

I have had the privilege of being the one to take care of mom and show her honor in doing so during her last years. Boy that sounds like I did it all perfectly and enjoyed every minute doesn’t it? Not hardly. The story goes back to when I was a child, much younger then all the rest, the baby of the family. There were drama and power struggles going on which I didn’t find out till years later. This parent favored this child that parent favored that one or maybe they were told they would amount to nothing. Parent and child issues, that as adults should be able to be dealt with and put in the past where it belongs. As for me, being the youngest, it was all my fault, so for years I was the target of their resentments. Mom and dad always liked you best kind of thing! Did I ask to be a part of their drama, no. Sometimes I feel like they have abandoned me to this task to get even, isn’t that a grown-up thought?

Not many men can take on the task of caregiver for their parent. It is emotionally taxing to say the least. Then if there are past issues with the parent that makes it pretty impossible for them to deal be caring towards the elderly parent. Because my brother used to see mom so seldom, it was hard for him to deal with the changes he saw in her physically and mentally. I of course see the changes too, but because I deal with them on a daily basis, they aren’t as disturbing to me. The best thing for me has been to just stop having expectations of my brothers to help with mom, to be or do something they can’t, to take on any amount of responsibility concerning her care. It just makes it harder on me to continue have the hope that they will help out, and that interferes with my doing my best to take care of mom.

Most of my days are spent in the house. I don’t even get out to the laundromat anymore; my husband has taken on that task, as well as getting most of the groceries. I go occasionally to do the major shopping. So, I get out even less now then I use to. Church is something we alternate, one week me then next week him. There is nothing we can do together unless we hire a mommy sitter. On a limited income, we have to be selective at what we do since we have to pay extra for a sitter. That means no movies, no eating out and not taking a drive after church (which we seldom can go to as a couple), shopping and so on. When we first started hiring a sitter for mom, she was a bit uncertain and a little defiant, stating she didn’t need a sitter! But the sitter became a welcomed visitor for her, a companion, someone to make her smile and laugh. Not that we weren’t those things, but we were here 24/7, we were the rule makers, keepers of her house, the wardens! So friendly, smiling, different faces were a welcome change for her.

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