The Proverb say that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and that may be perfectly true. But I think an unrecognized reality of being a caregiver for an aging parent is that it can take a village to do that as well.
Caregiving is not for the faint of heart. As it hopefully rewards you in some ways, it will also likely stress, challenge, burden, trap and overwhelm you in ways that you cannot imagine. It can lead you to feelings of bitterness, anger, guilt, sadness, and frustration to name only a few; some people even find themselves praying for the day that it will all be over. There can be hopelessness, helplessness and a feeling of being paralyzed by the number of demands that you find on your life; the endless list of ‘to-dos’ that never quite all ‘get-done’.
And because these are our parents, in-laws or other beloved members of the family, we then get bogged down under a death-grip of obligation; feeling trapped in a situation from which there appears to be no escape. It’s your Mom for cryin’ out loud!
But providing great care to your parents must involve more than just yourself. You need to find your Tribe and develop your Network.
Tribe: a group of persons having a common character, occupation or interest (as defined by Merriam-Webster.com) In this case, your tribe may be other people who are feeling the same things that you are so that you can know you are not alone. Your tribe includes people who will understand the time when you say, “I hate my father,” because you are simply exhausted by the care demands that he is requiring; the people who won’t think less of you when you use black humor at your mother’s expense just to burn off some steam; a judgment free zone where you can go to vent your frustrations and have a shoulder to cry on.
This Tribe is an important part of your Village. But if you stop with just finding your Tribe, you don’t get the full benefits of the Village concept.
You also need to develop your Network.
Network: (same dictionary) a usually informally interconnected group or association of persons (as friends or professional colleagues). This network should be made up of resources and contacts that become your support system and helpmates. Those that you call to help you get done the things that need to be done and to lessen the load on your shoulders; your helpers and your surrogates.
The network should probably include family, friends and neighbors that can help spell you when you need to get away; those that can come and sit with Mom while you have some down time. Identify who they are, call them, ask for their help, schedule a time and GET IT ON YOUR CALENDAR! You may need to contact a home care agency who can provide a wide range of services (companion services, personal care assistance, grocery shopping, light meal prep, light housekeeping, someone to transport Mom to an appointment, etc) and then USE THEM! Know where you can contact an Eldercare Coach or Geriatric Care Manager when you need some assistance navigating a particular transition or challenge and establish a relationship. Then, don’t be afraid to call and ask for help!
Use your Network to piece together a plan to divide the burden among many rather than trying to shoulder it all on your own.
Don’t let caretaking take you down! It takes a Village to care for an elderly parent. Take the time to fill your Village with the support and assistance that you need by finding your Tribe and developing your Network.
When you do, you will find that the burden is not nearly as heavy to bear……
On the journey with you…….Kathy