So glad you asked this question. This is the one that saved my life. While I had been going down to my mother's house every evening for ten years to make her a hot meal, clean, run errands, and entertain her, the time finally came when mom realized she was losing it mentally, and asked me to move in with her.
I already had a home and family and a farm to run in another county, but mom was already 93 and declining rapidly, we figured the stay would only last a few months, so I agreed. Once I moved in with her, the trouble began. This was her house, and she was used to the parent role. So, that's how she treated me. I felt like a bad little girl, constantly being put down by my mother. I was frustrated beyond bearing. Here I was, giving up my own life and home, to take care of one grumpy, bossy lady, and made to feel like I was the bad guy in the story.
For a year and half, things went from bad to worse, as dementia robbed by normally pleasant mother of her good nature. Fortunately, I found SparkPeople. Bless a member that recognized my frustration, and gave me the best advice of my life. She said that I had to recognize that the family relationship has reversed, my mother is now the one being cared for, and I needed to start behaving like a parent. That means that I needed to take control, and just plain do what needs done without guilt. Mom can only make me feel like a child if I allow it. I need to accept that the roles have reversed, and act accordingly. A good parent shouldn't whine when the child doesn't want to take their medicine, or wants to only eat candy, or gets nasty. A good parent acts, not reacts.
When my mother would verbally attack my son, I could calmly stand up for my son, say that it wasn't an appropriate thing to say and it would not be tolerated, and take my son into my room to read a story or play a game. That showed my son that he was important to me, and turned the unfortunate situation into something positive. It required no raised voices, no 'scene', no frustration--only a simple pre-planned action. In time, it greatly reduced those inappropriate outbursts.
When mom would behave like a child, I learned coping techniques to help me navigate the situation calmly and effectively. Check the Support Forum archives here for some of the things we found that work.
As a caregiver, you are now the parent. Some parents relinquish their parenting role more gracefully than others. Some fight it tooth and nail to the end. They may wish to be the boss, even when they are no longer able to make rational decisions. How hard they fight this may greatly affect your frustration level, as there is only so much we can do as caregivers.
The real key is the mental shift on your end. They can only bully you, shame you, and lord their parenting role over you if you allow it. You need to recognize that things have changed, and whether they are willing to accept it or not, you need to act accordingly. Often, they greatly resent the changes in their bodies and minds that have robbed them of their independence. On the inside, they still feel young and in control. When their body doesn't cooperate, they get frustrated, and they may take that frustration out on you.
You will need to do the things that need done, to the best of your ability. You can't make them happy, you can't change back time, you can't give them what they really want, which is to be young and strong and healthy and in charge of their own lives again. What you can do is give them support, and love, and patience, and understanding.
Their frustration often results in them lashing out at you. Understand that this is the disease, not the person. You don't need to take it personally. You wouldn't get angry at a person with heart disease for not being able to do heavy work, or at a person with a broken leg for having trouble getting around. The difficulties of aging fall into this same category. Dementia is a common companion to aging, and dementia causes personality changes, often turning pleasant people into touchy dragons. It's the disease, not the person, it's a normal part of the progression, and just like a cast on a broken bone, you learn to deal with it. It's not personal, so don't take the tirades personally.
As a caregiver, you'll often need to get legal help with power of attorney documents for both legal and medical issues. This is essential, but scary for the parent who will feel scared and powerless. Try to make this as painless as you can, it needs done early in the caregiving situation, while you still can, and before it is needed.
There will be financial decisions to be made, and this may require changes in lifestyle, as medical expenses take up more and more of the budget. This will be hard, try to find ways to let the parent still feel in control, while making sure the bills are really being paid. Often, seniors 'forget' about the bills, piling them in a drawer without dealing with them, even if they were once diligent about paying them promptly. Be aware of this, and prepare to be included on their checking and savings accounts, so you can take over paying the bills when the time comes.
Pills may not longer be properly doses, it took us quite a while before we discovered mom was poisoning herself with aspirin, not remembering that she just took two pills, and taking two more, and two more. . . We needed to switch to tiny bottles which we refilled as needed, and kept them out of her easy reach. That was a huge help. You may need to monitor medications to be sure they are being taken properly and on time.
Meals may be another issue, they may not be feeding themselves properly, skipping nutritious meals for sweet treats instead. Also, as we age, we don't absorb nutrients as well as we used to, so you may find liquid vitamin supplements helpful (they gave my mom an amazing boost, she lasted seven more years!)
Just as with children, you won't suddenly change them from treats to Brussels's sprouts. But you can substitute healthier options. If caffeine is a problem, you can switch them from full caffeine to lower caffeine options, often without their notice. Whole grains can be substituted for processed grains, etc.
So yes, there definitely is a role change. As they become less able to care for themselves, you need to pick up the slack. You may need to decide it's time to consult a doctor, or deal with financial issues, or make decisions on repairs/replacement issues. It's hard, as it's an end of an era. There will be grieving, as the parents you may have depended upon now depend on you. That emotional and physical safety net is dissolving, and it's hard to accept the change sometimes. But, this is the way of life as we, too, are progressing on the path of life. We are marching on to our own graduation.
This is another of the mileposts of life, the passing of the baton. Does anyone have any suggestions to make this transition easier?
CHANTANAY, how is this changing of roles working out in your life?
"You can make clothes from the wool of your sheep. . .the goats will provide milk for you and your family" (Proverbs 27: 26, 27)
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