Most of us want the best possible care for our aging parents. There are many ways to provide good care, one of which is bringing our parent or parents to live with us, or taking our family to live with them. Sometimes that works out wonderfully. But sometimes it doesn’t. Not everyone is cut out for the day to day stress of hands-on caregiving, let alone 24-hour caregiving in their own home. What can start out as a loving gesture can end up a nightmare.
Stress can push caregivers over the edge. Even if a caregiver has had a great relationship with his or her parents, when the stress of working a regular job, perhaps raising children, common financial problems, and giving proper attention to a marriage merge with caring for an aging parent – perhaps one who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia – the stress load can become unbearable.
First, it’s the little things. The caregiver comes home from work tired and finds that his or her parent, who is in early stage AD, has decided to take all of the canned goods out of the cupboard because there was a TV report on old canned goods being dangerous. The caregiver faces this with good, if tired, humor. He or she explains the difference between old and new canned goods to the parent and puts everything back in the cupboard.
Then behaviors – and accompanying stress – become more challenging. As the parent’s AD worsens, paranoia can increase. The parent may begin accusing family members of stealing the things the parent can no longer locate because of a failing memory. The parent can wander outside only to be found several blocks away. The parent can get testy because fear and confusion are his or her daily companions.
The caregiver’s patience is severely tried, even though the person with AD can’t help his or her behavior. The caregiver can begin showing stressed body language, and even unconsciously begin jerking the parent around while providing basic physical care. This can escalate to shouting, scolding or emotional threats. Sometimes, caregivers can reach a point where slapping and hitting becomes a way to deal with behaviors. They are out of control.
When you were an abused child
It’s not uncommon for adult children who grew up in abusive households to want to care for their parents even though their family history was dysfunctional. Often, they’ve reconciled with the parents, however that isn’t always the case. Often they are unconsciously still trying to make the parent love them.
Caring for a parent is wonderful. Caring for a less than good parent is an admirable thing to do. However, people who were abused as children should be certain that, whether through counseling and other help, they have put to rest the family history of abuse. If they have not, they are statistically more likely to abuse their elder when they are overwhelmed by difficult behaviors stemming from AD, or just the parent’s personality.