More about Denial

Another day has come, and I want to continue the discussion about denial, which is currently having a significant impact on some individuals in my own family whom I dearly love.    

In exploring caregiving websites, I came across the following:  Caregiving Made Easy  See also:

It looks like a really good website, but I am stuck on its name.  It’s a pet peeve of mine when I hear the message, “Just follow these steps and caregiving will be easy.”  Education certainly helps, but when caregivers are told that following good advice will make it easy, it elicits a sense of failure when it is not.    Even experts who find themselves in the role of caregiver find that caregiving is never easy. 

As a matter of fact, being an expert can even create additional frustration.  As an expert, you have high expectations of yourself.  This only increases the pressure because you feel you should “know it all.”

“After all, who better to understand what was happening than I?  I say this factiously, because I am a palliative/hospice nurse and a former director of nursing for an assisted-living community with a dementia unit.  However, none of that helped me deal with the reality of my mother’s condition.  I soon learned how inept I really was at managing her care.  The result was that it took a crisis for me to be able to step in and take charge of moving my mom to a safer and more manageable environment.” 

What to Do about Mama? June’s Story, page 142

In my family, there are now-senior members who are historically the experts. They are the go-to people for all questions related to medical issues and well-being.  Accustomed to that role, they have not transitioned easily to accepting that they have become the folks in need.  It has taken the CRISIS SITUATION to provoke them into doing what needs to be done.  And despite having a very-competent next generation to help, they all need to learn how to navigate the changing of the guard—that process when parents relinquish control and children accept that their parents, who they always relied upon, are now the one one’s in need.       

Here is the cold truth for my generation.  We are next up at bat—not just as caregivers—but as care receivers.  Most of us find that concept hard to accept, and it appears that we are in denial that the time is coming (or has arrived) for us to pass the torch. 

But maybe the denial is being generated by more fundamental causes because we: 

  • value our independence and do not feel ready to give it up—even gradually; 
  • are self-conscious that it’s difficult to do things that were once easy;
  • are uncomfortable with the idea that we cannot be depended upon as we once were; 
  • are afraid to lose our abilities to do such things that are now unsafe, such as driving or climbing ladders;
  • lose once-familiar personality traits when depression makes us sad and saps our joy;
  • withdraw and become socially isolated—feeling powerless that we can’t change what is happening;
  • lose our core identity—our sense of self. 

What to Do about Mama? isn’t a book by “experts,” but by regular people in the trenches.  It may just resonate with you.