Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Caregiver Wednesdays- Changing Roles in Caregiving
My parents were leaving for a road trip out west, and Dad asked me if I would take Mom shopping in preparation for their journey. She needed some camisoles and other items he wasn't comfortable shopping for. Mom had mid-stage Alzheimer's and couldn't go on her own.
In the dressing room, as I helped her try on clothes, a thought stunned me. My two-and-a-half-year-old was able to dress herself. My mother wasn't. And although my Dad was the caregiver, I realized my role was changing. I was the baby of the family--the protected one. Mom and I were close, and talked every day. I was her daughter, but I was standing in a change room, helping her untangle herself from an undershirt and filling an entirely different role.
Fast forward many years. The two-and-a half-year-old was now married with a child of her own. I received a call at work from the visiting nurse looking after my husband, who was alarmed. He was verging on heart failure, his legs were hugely swollen and in grave danger, but refused to go to the hospital. I phoned my daughter and asked her to pick me up at the station. She had the baby with her, and we went to the house to persuade my husband to make the decision that would save his life. When we arrived, he was sitting in his chair in the basement, and pills were scattered everywhere. At that moment, although I had been his caregiver for many months, I realized I would have to take control of some areas that had always been his. He could no longer manage his medications. My role was changing.
"Whenever someone requires care, responsibilities and roles often change with them. According to Nancy Mace in The 36-Hour Day, responsibilities are the jobs each person performs in the family. Roles, while connected to the duties one performs, also include who you are, how you are seen and what is expected of you. Specifically, they define your place in the family."1
Walking the tightrope between your traditional role (wife, sister, daughter) and the role of caregiver can be hazardous. The possibility for resentment and misunderstanding exists on both sides. The caregiver needs to work through the many difficulties with sensitivity and patience. One minute, you are a wife, then caregiver, then back to wife. Sometimes within a few minutes. It's confusing.
Your loved one's roles are changing, too, and they, too are confused.
This month, we're going to explore changing roles.