Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Parental Caregiving - Reality vs. Personal Demons

My parents, mostly my mother, need to have a full time attendant and have been resisting doing so mostly because of my father. My siblings have been terrific at trying to work with a currently unworkable situation of dealing with legally competent adults making terrible choices for themselves.

What's tough for me (and why I'm writing about it here as this issue is not about me, but I need to puzzle this out) is working through all the weird unspoken emotional subtextual messages that I'm feeling regarding my mother. Even as a kid, my mother used a cane to get around, and always wanted help. For example, she always wanted me to hold her hand for stability when crossing the street. This is tough on a kid who is too old to need hand holding to cross the street. A kid isn't able to really separate out her mother's needs vs. her own.

The demon that I wrestle with now is the constant pull of emotional obligation (likely mostly imaginary) that I should still be there helping her. I woke up this morning feeling like the reason that my mother was resistant to hiring an attendant is that I should be there taking care of her. Now my mother (who has huge class related issues) grew up with a hired cook/housecleaner so she's entirely used to having hired help so the reality probably not that and what is going on is a combination of my father's resistance to getting help (since that would mean that he isn't completely capable of taking care of his family himself) and my mother trying to cope by falling back on using the youngest child as the caregiver (which is totally not fair of me, but is the message I feel.)

Ironically, when I'm there I'm a great attendant up to a point. I'm a really good wheelchair driver and helping her up and down into the chair. More intimate issues like managing getting up and down off the toilet) I do have more issues with and don't do much of that.

I have to keep reassuring myself that I live no where near them. There's no danger of my getting trapped into that role, and if my father were willing to hire an attendant, my mother would be thrilled. I just need to keep repeating this to myself. Over and Over and Over.

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