I receive a lot of emails from family caregivers. Every heart-felt note is filled with emotion. Some are sad, some are anxious, others are angry or resentful, and still others are proud or even hopeful. You name the emotion, and I have an email from a caregiver oozing with it.
After all these years of listening to your stories, one recent email caught me off-guard and had me thinking well after I hit the reply button.
This caregiver (we’ll call her Emma) wasn't upset. She wasn't anxious, angry, or even delighted by her role caring for her parents. As I read on, I thought I had pin-pointed the emotion in the email. At first, I thought she was feeling guilty.
You see, Emma was confessing that she purposefully turned down the task of caring for her aging parents. But there was no remorse or guilt in her words. She didn't express that she wished she could have, or regret that she didn't at least try. She wasn't feeling guilty at all.
Emma’s words were meant to express the other side – the side that we often look at as uncaring or selfish. Her story challenged the way I looked at those who opt out of the caregiving role. Perhaps I was wrong when I assigned words like insensitive or self-centered.
In her email, Emma said, “Let’s face it; we’re not all cut out to provide care for someone. That doesn't mean we don’t care.”
She’s right. Not everyone has the constitution to be a caregiver. And that’s okay. As Emma stated in her email, you can still care. Of course that doesn't mean just crossing your fingers and hoping everything works out.
Emma pointed out that she had prepared for the day her parents would need more help; help she wasn't capable of providing herself. “I knew pretty early on that I wouldn't be the daughter who moved her parents in with her, or drive them to appointments, so I had to make sure we were organized and prepared.”
She encouraged her mom and dad to purchase long-term care policies by the time they were sixty. She helped her parents get all the legal documents they needed by setting them up with a friend who was lawyer. Emma said she even has some money set aside in case her parents’ care requires it.
Sometimes, letting go of the caregiving responsibilities is what everyone needs. By hiring a professional caregiver, you give your parents the dignity of being independent, and you give yourself the freedom to simply enjoy your time with Mom and Dad. So if you feel like you’re not up for caregiving, take Emma’s words to heart. You can care without being a caregiver.
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