Topic Suggested by BajanBeauty Simone. Thank you!
Many of us have parents that are seniors and whose health may be declining. We find ourselves shuttling our parents back and forth to doctor’s appointments in the same way that they used to drop us off to meet our friends at the mall and movie theaters. We care for them and want to make sure we do everything we can to keep them happy and healthy, but how do we handle it when they aren’t forthcoming with us about their health issues? What do we do when they are flat-out lying or even being hostile with us about what is going on with them? I am by no means an expert, but I am an adult child caregiver to a parent, so I will share some of the obstacles that I have encountered and some of the lessons that I have learned.
- Obstacle 1: “I am still your parent!”
Probably the single most annoying hindrance to offering my mom help is the incessant barrage of the above phrase and/or similar variations of the same whenever I am just trying to help. It’s like she thinks I somehow forgot. As though that isn’t the reason I am trying to help in the first place. I don’t make a habit of going to random seniors’ homes and inquiring about their health. I’d wager that you don’t either. Sometimes, I find myself using this argument against her. I just say “Okay, since you are the parent, what would you tell me to do if I was dealing with this health issue?” LOL, she doesn’t like that very much but it does often get my point across. Also, instead of getting annoyed, I had to recognize that whenever this phrase comes out, she’s communicating to me that she feels threatened or scared. She feels as though she’s no longer in control and is seeking to gain that back. Sometimes I can accommodate that need by trying to put the situation into terms that make her feel that she has more autonomy. For example, I can check my tone of voice and show a bit more reverence for her position as my mom or I say “Okay, what is it that you want to do to solve this problem? How do you want to handle this? How can I help you handle this?” In each case, I don’t allow the option for her to ignore the issue but it put the ball in her court as to HOW and that usually smooths her feathers (and makes my life much more peaceful).
- Obstacle 2: Parent pretending like nothing is wrong or downplaying a health issue.
This is probably the most dangerous obstacle. My grandmother downplayed her health issues to my father to the point where no one really knew she was sick until her breast cancer was imminently terminal. Parents do this for various reasons. Perhaps they want to spare their children from worrying, perhaps they are in denial themselves, perhaps they are too afraid to say out loud what they are going through because they feel it will somehow give the issue more strength rather than less. Whatever the reason, it is my worst fear that my mom will not be honest with me about a serious issue she’s having. Luckily, she and I have the same doctor, a doctor I have been seeing since I was in my early 20’s. He knows me and he has gotten to know her. He and I have an agreement. He can’t legally tell me anything that’s going on with her but when something big is happening, he makes sure that she and I have concurrent appointments and puts us in the same room. Smart man!
The other thing I did to help with this situation (because my momma likes to think she’s slick and hide stuff from me), I moved her in with me. Now I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but it had done wonders for us. She can’t hide her injuries or illnesses from me when I am in the next freaking room. Ha!
- Obstacle 3: Pigheaded, stubborn as fuck, I ain’t gonna do right type behavior.
*Pauses and sighs deeply hoping for Gawd to give me strength*
Y’all! When I tell you I have the most stubborn mother I have ever known, I am not lying! When she was first diagnosed with diabetes, she downright fucking refused to act right and change her diet. She and I still have fights about her sugar intake. There is no easy solution to this one that I have found. Sometimes I just have to say “This is how it’s going to be and I don’t care about you being mad.” I have to just dig my heels in and ride the crazed bucking bull until it gets too tired to fight any longer. During the moments when it’s catching its breath, I do what needs to be done, rest when I can and then get ready for another round. There have been situations when I just had to tell her “‘No’ isn’t an option here so just scratch that on off your list. This is gonna happen so get all your cussin, fussin, and fighting out but at the end of the day, THIS WILL HAPPEN.” Then I have to just stand in the storm or tactics she throws at me, fight the internal feelings of being a horrible child to her and remember that I’m just doing what’s best for her to keep her safe and healthy. If I need back-up, I call my sister, and we tag-team the situation.
During all of this, there is one thing that I think is super important to remember. You have to take time out to take care of yourself!!!! If you aren’t 100% there’s nothing you can do to help anyone else. Also, if your parent is a danger to you in any way then you absolutely have to let someone who is better trained to handle that deal with them. Never put yourself in harm’s way or submit yourself to verbal or emotional abuse. At the end of the day, they are adults. Although we love them and want to help them, if they aren’t willing to help themselves or will resort to abuse to keep you from helping them, then you have to let them go deal with their own decisions.
What are some ways that you have found that help you when dealing with your parents that have health issues? Leave a comment below and help us all out!!