Care for the Caregivers
I received a phone call the other day–a call from a person who is sinking. Not from an elderly client himself or herself–but from the caregiver child. In my office “the kids” don’t play with Barbie or G.I. Joe anymore. They vary in age from 30 to 80. If mom or dad are in their 90s or over 100, it is possible to have children aged 60 to 80. A phone call to our office often begins like this: “My mom is elderly and ailing, and my siblings and I need advice on how to help her. Our folks have a decent monthly income and assets, but the nursing home costs are three times that much! Nobody made any plans for this. My parents never expected to live this long. We don’t know what to do. I can’t have them live with me. Help me, please. I don’t know what to do for them.” The call from the kids has several possible motives, and more specifically, several underlying emotions:
- Love and responsibility: to provide the best care for mom or dad with the least destruction of their assets during their lives.
- Seeking relief: the need to lift the care and cost burden off the caregiver, who may be the caller himself or another loved one.
- Fear of loss: the desire to conserve the benefits of the parental assets, either during the parents’ lives or at the time of their deaths.
- Greed: the desire to get access to the parents’ assets so the assets will not be “lost.”
- Confusion: Looking for a source of care and comfort at a time of great emotional and financial stress.
- Guilt: for not being able to do more for a needy parent, spouse, or other loved one.
- Shame: one man recently said to us, “I just can’t believe that I have to put the love of my life in a nursing home.”
- Anger: “Why did my parents not plan better?” “Why me? My siblings never help me take care of dad.” “I wish he would just die.”
- Frustration: over conflict with declining parents.
- Self-preservation: worry about how much of their own limited resources must be used to provide parental care.