One of the things that has been the hardest for me with aging parents is the concept of setting boundaries for myself. I’ve talked with other women who say it’s the difference between being a male and a female. Female reach out to the world with their heart, and males reach out to the world with their bodies.
When I asked my husband to sit with me, when I was miscarrying many years ago, his idea of sitting with me was sitting on the other side of the room reading his Sports Illustrated while I was having contractions and running to the bathroom hemorrhaging blood. I used to think it was a deficiency in my particular husband, but I notice it elsewhere.
When I spent the summer with my mother, my brother thought nothing of playing 36 holes of golf every day while I spent my days sitting with Mom, watching and coaching her through her physical therapy, and then sorting out her paperwork and doing bills when I got back to her apartment.
When I visit my mother-in-law, my husband watches TV or goes out golfing while I take her to the bathroom or outside, change her diaper, wipe her, dress her, clean up messes she’s made with her incontinence. Then I fix burnt out light bulbs or switch plates, or clean dishes, or wipe lotion on her or go through pictures or books with her and talk with her about her family as though I’d never heard these exact stories a million times over. It’s an exhausting time of giving her 100% of my attention and love.
The stress of being the one who can deal my family problems is what has been bringing my health down all these years. I know that now, because the ativan has made my back pain disappear — after years of pain killers and antidepressants and so many other random medications and holistic treatments that supposedly help back pain. My stress was never directly treated before.
What is it that makes men and women so different? I can see men take a very minimal part in the care of our elderly parents, and then easily walk away from it. My heart tugs and fills me with a compassion that I can’t control, and it burns me out. I end up doing most of the work and blaming it on them when it’s not their fault, it something strange in my brain seeing the problems differently and seeing things that MUST be done. Like I’m OCD about it.
In order to create some sense of boundary for myself, I’ve decided to let myself concentrate on the finances and support my brother in his medical decisions, since Bro has been her Medical POA and is a very controlling person to begin with. But it’s been so hard for me to watch the decisions that he makes. We’ve always had a difference of opinion about medications. I think medications are crucial for compassionate medical treatment. The reason they get such a bad rap is because of the prescribers not prescribing correctly.
It’s very very hard for me when I think about the elderly people in this world who are being cared for by people who are perfectly within their rights to do what they’re doing, but are so fixated on some personal agenda, they cause unnecessary suffering.
I know people are going to read this and have all sorts of suggestions on “how to fix this” by having a talk with my brother, or weekly conference call with brothers, or get a list of Mom’s meds and discuss them with him or her doctors, etc. etc. This isn’t the way things work in the real world. In the real world there are families who have secrets and dysfunctions and children who have carried those scars forever. And unlike real jobs where people are hired to fit their skill sets, in families, people do jobs which were assigned long long ago by parents who never knew their children to begin with.
In the real world I can only pray that if there is a God out there, He/She/It will help my brother do the right thing so I can concentrate on what’s already stressful enough to me, which is keeping her bookwork up to date, money moving smoothly, employees paid, and insurance and medical teams talking to each other regularly.