Suffering in Silence

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Stuffing your feelings is dangerous

I an April 22, 2020 article from Caregiver Warrior website, CAREGIVERS! STOP SUFFERING IN SILENCE. IT’S DANGEROUS!” Suzanne White states that it is an almost universal tendency of caregivers to suffer in silence, and because of this, it is not only dangerous to their well-being, but also to everyone else involved.  She goes on to say that when she reached out to talk about what she was feeling, her life changed instantly.

It was during my adolescent and teenage years, that I suffered a time of “secret keeping”—which later, as a young adult, I recognized as detrimental to my emotional well-being. With a lot of personal introspection and practice, it was a pattern I changed. 

Fast forward forty years to the time when I was primary caregiver for my mother-in-law who moved into our home.  Everything went quite well for about two years.  But then her health began to decline rapidly, and my stress began to increase significantly. I joined a support group and it was great to be able to talk about the stresses of caregiving with people who just “get it.”  

Suzanne stated in the Caregiver Warrior article: “So silence be damned. Don’t be a victim or a martyr.” That was exactly how I felt—which I think stemmed from by my role as an IN-LAW caregiver. The support group leader suggested a family meeting to encourage more involvement from my husband’s siblings.   But I must report that even though strides were made, the once-good relationship we had with my husband’s family took a major hit. 

“Despite a good multi-decade relationship, the difference in our family cultures and its impact on who we were as people was just too vast. Once the trouble began, interaction among all parties became increasingly difficult, and then impossible. That was the quicksand I never saw in my path.”

What to Do about Mama? p. 40

To sum the experience up:  I agree that suffering in silence is dangerous and that growing resentment would have had a more destructive result. But sharing our feelings and frustrations  with “the others” did not result in an instant change for the better, and in fact, although we have been able to rebuild relationships with his sisters, my husband and his brother are still estranged. 

Caregiving model: living with an elderly parent in your home

To ending
From Onset

The Caring Generation, with host Pamela D. Wilson: Living With Elderly Parents Radio Show

This is a great program for anyone thinking about having an elderly parent move into their home. Pamela Wilson provides information to discuss and consider prior to making a commitment of this magnitude. 

In-home caregiving is the model my husband and I undertook to provide care for his mother. Our arrangement had one major difference:  I assumed the role of primary caregiver as a daughter-in-law.  Our experience is detailed in What to Do about Mama?  

Although our caregiving situation had a number of positives, there was also more difficulties than we ever foresaw. I am highlighting those points because they have the most significant application to the disintegration of our caregiving arrangement.

  • Although we discussed the arrangement extensively with all family members beforehand, we did not establish firm parameters of shared responsibility in a formal, written, and a notarized agreement.
  • We made sacrifices above and beyond what the others were willing to do, which eventually led to resentment.
  • We did not realize how much sharing our home would change our spousal relationship.
  • Unanticipated details surrounding the situation can create unforeseen complications.
  • We underestimated escalating needs, which increased the scope of responsibilities.  Neither did we fully anticipate the number of years involved with providing care.
  • We did not recognize the differences in our family cultures, which led to serious misunderstandings. 
  • Over time, caregiving can become a trap that can undermine the adult child-parent relationship, as well as relationships with other family members.
  • Caregiving can be very long-term. We did not prepare a contingency plan for if and when the arrangement became unmanageable. 
Remember:  Do not enter a live-in caregiving arrangement lightly.