Caring for an Elderly Parent You Don’t Like – The Caring Generation®
The Caring Generation® – Episode 68 January 13, 2021. On this caregiving radio program Pamela D Wilson, Caregiving Expert, Offers Tips for Caring for An Elderly Parent You Don’t Like. Dr. John Leach from the University of Portsmouth in England shares research about the Psychology of Human Survival.
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Caring for an Elderly Parent You Don’t Like
00:04 Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation with host Pamela D. Wilson is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.
Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel
00:48 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, senior care advisor, and speaker consultant. I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio program, coming to you live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. The Caring Generation focuses on conversations about health, well-being, caring for ourselves and aging parents, all tied together with humor and laughter essential to being a caregiver. The topic for this caregiving radio program is caring for an elderly parent you don’t like. At one time or another, I think we’ve all said, “I don’t like my family, my mom, my dad, or my brothers and sisters.” Believe it or not, your elderly parents and family members may have had the same thoughts about us. What goes around comes around in this circle of life. I’ll share five “whys” that relate to caring for an elderly parent you don’t like.
01:40 Pamela D. Wilson: If you are an elderly parent listening, you can apply all of these to your adult children that you may not like. I’ll also share five solutions for I don’t like my family and how to make these interactions less emotionally challenging. The health and wellness guest for this program takes this one step further to the idea of human survival. Surviving the day-in and out stress and wear and tear of caregiving and COVID these days is an accomplishment. What would you do if you were indeed in a life or death situation? Like an airplane crash or a sinking ship, or a military battle, and the odds were against you? Would you give up? Would you fight to survive?
02:27 Pamela D. Wilson: Dr. John Leach, a visiting senior research fellow from the University of Portsmouth in Portsmouth, Hampshire England, joins us. Before joining the University of Portsmouth, he was a military SERE psychologist. SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Extraction. He will share research about a survival mindset. Need a little translation, think Mark Wahlberg in the movie Shooter and Ryan Phillippe in the series, or Tom Hanks and Matt Damon in Saving Private Ryan, and for us women, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. Dr. John Leach joins us in the second and third segments of the show.
03:08 Pamela D. Wilson: Back to another type of caregiver survival situation, caring for an elderly parent you don’t like. Let’s start with number one of the five situations that caregivers and I talk about for I don’t like my family, but I will do this caregiving thing anyway. People who do things they don’t like, find inner strength. Many persist to take the high road instead of getting down in the mud and fighting it out with other people. How many of you are in this situation, caring for an elderly parent you don’t like? Saying, I don’t like my family, but still showing up once a week or more. Always picking up the phone. You are all awesome caregivers. Here are some whys of why you do this. Moral values, personal character, or spiritual beliefs. Pick one or pick all of them.
04:00 Pamela D. Wilson: A moral value is something like believing this is what a good person does. A good person, a daughter, or a son takes care of elderly parents. An elderly parent, on the other hand, helps a spoiled or ungrateful child. After all, who modeled, ignored, or made excuses for those childhood behaviors that only got worse? Look at where you are now. You’re saying, I don’t like my family, I don’t like my elderly parents, I don’t like my kids. You may be caring for an elderly parent you don’t like. Another why, a personal characteristic or a spiritual belief, which is doing the right thing under all circumstances. Going out of your way to help someone or to support a cause in which you believe. It’s being kind when others are not. It’s giving people the benefit of the doubt when others are judgmental. Doing things when you may get nothing in return. Caring for an elderly parent you don’t like is like being a superhero—who doesn’t always wear that red cape and a blue shirt with that big S, or that little Wonder Woman dress. Even though you say, I don’t like my family, or you are caring for an elderly parent you don’t like, you do it because of a higher purpose and because you believe it’s the right thing to do. Let’s be honest. Not all caregivers can do this, for many of the reasons that we are about to discuss.
05:25 Pamela D. Wilson: This leads us to number two of the five situations that relate to caring for an elderly parent you don’t like. I call this one throwing out the baggage. In part, it’s the idea of separating behaviors. Present behaviors from the past, if they’re different. Throwing out the baggage is the ability to remain neutral—to not take sides, not taking the words of an elderly parent or what your adult child does or says personally. Remaining neutral takes superhero-like powers. How many of you can detach emotionally, but remain kind, compassionate, and loving? Let’s talk about attachment for a moment. Attachment is need-based. It means that you want someone to feel a certain way or do certain things to make you feel good. Although it can be difficult to watch an elderly parent or a spouse make poor decisions or not to take care of their health, these are choices we all have. When you become detached, you can go on with your life without feeling that you have to solve another person’s problems or live through stress or misery with them.
06:32 Pamela D. Wilson: Detaching means letting go of your expectations or hopes about another person’s behaviors and troubles. Stop reacting; wanting to control or obsess about what mom, dad, spouse, brother, or sister did can be relieving when you stop responding, Caring for an elderly parent you don’t like, or thinking, I don’t like my family; it becomes so much easier. Learn to set boundaries. You will be able to throw out the baggage of caring for an elderly parent you don’t like. I have an entire radio show about setting boundaries with elderly parents. I’ll post a link in this radio show transcript so that you can listen. Accepting reality is another component of throwing out the baggage, Your relationship with an elderly parent may never get better, as well as the feeling that I don’t like my family. Most importantly, throwing out the baggage means living in today, the present, not stewing on what happened 10, 20, or 30 years ago or yesterday.
07:35 Pamela D. Wilson: When you take responsibility for your feelings and detach, your moods, happiness won’t depend on someone else. You will become less opinionated, more open-minded. You’ll feel a calmness inside. You won’t feel the need to react or judge the actions or statements of another person. You will become less emotionally hooked from that desire to want to have control over the whole situation. Many caregivers tell me that the desire to control is really what becomes upsetting to them in caregiving situations because they feel that the caregiving situation is out of control. That results in emotions that are up and down like being on a roller coaster. How much better would being calm feel than dwelling on caring for elderly parents you don’t like, or that dreadful thought of, I don’t like my family. It might feel magical. Other parts of your life will also benefit from learning to detach.
08:37 Pamela D. Wilson: Tips for caregivers and aging adults are in my Caring for Aging Parents Caregiving Blog on my website at PamelaDWilson.com. I also invite you to follow me on Facebook at PamelaDWilsoncaregivingexpert. There, you can join my online caregiver support group. It is called The Caregiving Trap. In that group, I have caregivers from all over the world who share their daily experiences. I’m Pamela D. Wilson on The Caring Generation radio show, live on the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
11:31 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio show for caregivers live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. Dr. Leach, welcome to the show. Thank you for joining us.
11:47 Dr. John Leach: Thank you for inviting me.
11:49 Pamela D. Wilson: You are an expert on survival psychology. Will you share the idea of give-up-itis and the origin?
12:01 Dr. John Leach: Yes, the origin of give-up-itis is that it was actually coined by American medical officers who were in the prisoner of war camps during the Korean War in the early 1950s. And they spotted amongst some of the POWs a certain condition which they could describe, but they couldn’t diagnose. And in short, it was people who couldn’t cope in the situation they were in, and at the end, they would just lie down and turn over and die. Even though there was no organic reason for this that they could identify. That’s how it initially started. So they called it give-up-itis. They laid down, and they gave up on life. The same condition was also noted amongst American POWs being held in the Vietnam camps, so it transferred across to them. They refer to the same condition as give-up-itis. Again, lying down, an inability to cope, and just closing their eyes and dying.
13:12 Dr. John Leach: Now, interestingly, the same condition was identified amongst British personnel in POW camps, particularly in Japanese camps. Especially there. Now, they noticed the same condition there, but we gave it a different term. We called it Face-the-Wall syndrome, Because again, it was a descriptive term, but nobody could do a diagnosis with any treatment. And it came back because they noticed that something would go wrong, and was going wrong when a person would be lying down, and they would turn. They would turn their faces to the wall and then they would die. And the same thing again was noted in concentration camps. It’s been noted in various other parts. And what intrigued me was that I had come across the same, exactly the same type of behavior as described by survivors of shipwreck. And it appeared to be very common in lifeboats. So in one case, there’s one report of an officer from a boat that was shipwrecked, and I quote, “There were seven of us on the raft, but the third officer died about two hours before we were picked up. He was very despondent until the end. He lost heart and gave up and died.”
14:31 Dr. John Leach: Now, I began to look into this. What could be causing it, and what I also found out was that there was historical precedence. It wasn’t as late as the Second World War with Face-the-Wall syndrome or with the American give-up-itis concept. This is going back even to the American Jamestown colony, back in the 1600s. It was founded by Sir Walter Raleigh and has always been a historical interest about what happened to the people there. And Sir Walter Raleigh sent—he sent one of his deputies over to find out what was going on because the reports coming back weren’t good. And in one of the reports that came back, dated around 1607, described, and I quote again, “A most strange condition, with colonists showing an inexplicable apathy, lethargy and indifference, and most give themselves over and die of melancholy.” So they give themselves over and die of melancholy.
15:38 Dr. John Leach: Now, at the time I was trying to answer this question, I was actually looking in my role in the psychology of human survival. Because I was also a trained military survival instructor, just like what today we call a SERE Officer. S-E-R-E, Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Extraction. And I was combining my psychological expertise with my military background at that time. And what struck me again was why so many people were dying when they shouldn’t. And this is the point because the general view was we’re always intrigued with survivors. That’s why there’s so many survival programs on TV. And we want to know what is so special about them. What makes a person a survivor? What is unique about them that they can survive when everybody else was dying?
16:38 Dr. John Leach: Well, what struck me one day when I was looking into this, and I spent a lot of my early time looking at shipwrecks, was that I was asking the wrong question. The question wasn’t what is so special about a few people that they can survive? The real question should be, how is it that so many people perish when there’s no need for them to have perished? I then realized that what we were doing in survival training and researching the survival training, we were doing it with a presumption of how people—not so much how people behave in survival—but how we thought people ought to behave, and they weren’t behaving as we thought they should behave. So I started looking into that and investigating that from an academic and research side, and it actually makes a lot of sense now, and that would go down into an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex in the front of the brain.
17:48 Dr. John Leach: I’ll leave that for now, because the point here is that whilst I was working on that, and I’ve got some answers for our behavior under survival situations, there was always this bit of give-up-itis. And it had different names, and technically, it’s called psychogenic death. But it occurred in different cultures. It occurred in different environments. It occurred at different times. There’s accounts of letters being written back to Queen Isabella of Spain, from the conquistadors saying that the slaves that they were capturing from the South American Indians to work in the silver mines, once they were tied up, they would just lie on the sand and they’d be dead in 20-40 minutes, so they were no good.
18:32 Dr. John Leach: So when I got here, I could answer just about everything on survival after 30-odd years, but apart from this give-up-itis, and I always referred to it as The Elephant in the Lifeboat. Like the elephant in the room, but it’s in a lifeboat. Because the ship has gone down. And it was always there. It wouldn’t go away, and, eventually, I had to take it out of the too-difficult-to-answer box and concentrate on that.
19:00 Pamela D. Wilson: Dr. Leach, we have to go out to a break. Listeners, we will continue our conversation with Dr. John Leach after this break. The podcast of this radio show for caregivers, including show transcripts that you can all read, are on The Caring Generation website, www.PamelaDWilson.com. Click on the Media tab, scroll down to the show. I’m Pamela D. Wilson on The Caring Generation, live on the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
21:47 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert. I’m your host for The Caring Generation on the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. We’re back to continue our conversation with Dr. John Leach. Dr. Leach, can we continue our thought before, and can you talk about the stages of the process of give-up-itis?
22:08 Dr. John Leach: Yes. When I started examining the cases and the reports that were coming out, because a lot of them were actually written by medical officers, they were quite detailed in their descriptions and diagnosis at the time. And as I put them together and I discovered that there’s actually a timeline to it, and it forms a spectrum. So if we take a normal behavior. So we’ve got routine adaptive and motivated goal-direct behavior that’s what will get us out of bed in the morning, to go to work, and so on, and the ability to think ahead and plan. So we can do all that. Now, that’s how we’ve adapted to the environment, and we can do that. Now, what happens now is that there’s a psychogenic shock that comes in, and of course, in the cases of the POW camps, it’s capture.
22:54 Dr. John Leach: So we’ve got that. You’ve got a shipwreck. You’ve got aircraft crashes. You’ve got so many of this. There’s always this psychogenic shock somewhere in there. And the response to that, the initial response is stage one—is withdrawal. So people tend to withdraw. And as they withdraw, there’s a degree of impaired initiative with a reduction in activity. Cognitive function remains intact, and this is interesting as well. Because in all the give-up-itis reports I’ve come across, there is no evidence of any psychiatric disorder. So there’s nothing there to indicate this might be a psychiatric problem. Cognitive function is intact. Speech is reduced, but is coherent. And self-motivation is diminished but possible.
23:39 Dr. John Leach: So people are withdrawing. And if we look at it in a survival context here. It’s a case very much of waiting and watching and conserving energy because people don’t know what’s happening. So they’re conserving energy, and they’re just waiting. So this actually is an adaptive response. But you’re getting withdrawn. When you move into stage two, stage two is apathy. Where you got apathy inertia. With apathy, of course, it’s a quantitative reduction in voluntary self-generated and purposeful, goal-directed behavior. That’s the important point. Purposeful goal-directed behavior. So we’ve got reduction in that. And we have impaired initiative and activity. Even for personal things such as hygiene and dress. Cognitive function intact, and we start to see what is called anhedonia coming in—which is a losing of natural pleasure in activities. So things not enjoyable, that we used to enjoy before. They’re starting to go. Intrinsic motivation is possible, but greater reliance on extrinsic. So you need to have that poke in the ribs to get out of bed in the morning.
24:52 Dr. John Leach: And the interesting thing is, when we look at the psychogenic shock, we can actually equate part of this to COVID—with the pandemic that’s going around at the moment. And as we certainly noticed over here in England, in the United Kingdom, is that we’re starting to see these types of behaviour becoming more prevalent now. So we’ve got the COVID pandemic shock. So there’s your psychogenic shock. Now we’ve gone into lockdown, which is a form of captivity. A lot of it has been argued about in Parliament at moment—but that is what it is. It’s a form of captivity. And if you break it, then we’ve got the police to come out and give you fines and things.
25:34 Dr. John Leach: But we’re starting to see people showing signs of apathy and the lack of inertia. And they’re saying, Well, I’m feeling tired. They’re not feeling tired—they’re feeling demotivated, which is different. And there’s this general, what we would call mumping. A general sort of grumbling about—losing the energy and not getting in there. And again, even for hygiene and dressing yourself. So increasing—men, I’ve noticed they don’t shave every day in the morning. They can’t be bothered to shave. That is the point. They can’t be bothered to shave. You know, they’ll shave every other day or something. And women, they have a tendency to—they won’t get dressed in the morning. They’ll slob around in their nightclothes until mid-day or something. So we’re actually seeing these behaviors coming out now. Anhedonia—people are not enjoying things as they used to before.
26:28 Dr. John Leach: Now we go back to survival stage. We’ve got aboulia, a loss of emotional response stage three and initiative, cognitive function is diminished, but again, intact. And at this point, people do stop washing and caring for themselves. They’ll just, again, slob around, they won’t wash. They won’t shave, they won’t do much else. They can still be motivated by other people, but not so much by themselves.
26:54 Dr. John Leach: Stage 4 is akinesia, lack of response in external stimuli, even to pain. Again, general cognition is intact, but they not only—do they see some washing, caring personal hygiene, but they can get to the stage now where they’re messing themselves, and they’re just spending their time in their own feces and urine and so on. And then the last stage itself, psychogenic death. Which is the interesting part. There’s a further regression into an infantile state, and then they just—and interestingly, just before they die, they perk up a bit. And you’re starting to get the impression they’re recovering. But then they just go straight down and die. But they seem to show a bit of motivation. They can sit up. They start talking again, and they’re starting to enjoy little pleasures that they didn’t have before, and then they die.
27:55 Dr. John Leach: So there’s actually a spectrum to this. And what I was really astounded by, was when my paper on the theory of this was published in 2018. I was only looking at it as though we were dealing with severe survival situations, and so on. And I was inundated from people around the world, emailing me saying, “Yes, that’s it.” Including a lot of doctors, particularly consultants in palliative care, and psychiatrists and neurologists, from all over the place, including America, saying, “I’ve got patients who are just going through your spectrum.” And that’s when I realized that actually, this is far more general than that. And I was contacted by a consultant psychiatrist in Australia, who’d been working in palliative care, on what he called demoralization. And there’s a little bit of an overlap between his model and mine, right at the beginning. And then we split in the middle, so we’re trying to put that one to make sense of that now. But it was pointed out that what we’re actually looking at—there will be a medical syndrome in its own right, capable of diagnosis. So that’s what I’m now involved in, is looking at it from a medical side, rather than scientific side, because I’m not a clinician, I’m a Research Psychologist, so I take brains apart, I don’t tend to put them back together again, I leave other people to do that.
29:31 Pamela D. Wilson: So a really quick question. What can do we do to help ourselves survive through this COVID? If we’re in this give-up-itis, how do we turn that around?
29:40 Dr. John Leach: Depends how far down you are. If you get over the peak of it, there’s not much you can do. You’re going to need intervention because you can stop yourself going down. One way to do this, because—one of the things that struck me when I was looking at it, was that the actual circuit for it all seems to relate to one circuit. Ninety-five percent to one circuit, is in the anterior cingulate circuit. And all the behaviors are specific behaviors. The pathology that we’re witnessing all seems to be related to dopamine. And to some of the people who did email me and they would say things like, “My husband, wife, son, daughter or whoever is showing these symptoms, what can I do about it?” And quite often, you find that, catch it in the initial stages. Then you can do it by boosting the dopamine component in the brain.
30:45 Pamela D. Wilson: So we’ve got to cut out to a break. So is the short answer to the solution, to manage dopamine levels and then to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist to get help?
30:58 Dr. John Leach: I would say in the initial stage, it’s a combination of both really. You talk about trying to boost dopamine levels. Now, this can be done through pharmacological intervention. But it has to be done really in a hospital because it’s a very delicate process. It’s not a sort of thing where you can go down to the pharmacy and get some tablets over the counter or something. These are very acute drug systems and they can—if it goes wrong, they can tip the patient into psychosis, which is not, of course, what we want. If you do the basic things here, I would argue, that you’re looking at the old saying that energy breeds energy. So if you’re physically active, then you tend to increase your dopamine levels.
31:45 Pamela D. Wilson: If you have an article to link to, I would be happy to link for that in this show. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, your host on The Caring Generation, live on the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
34:20 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving author, and speaker consultant. I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults, live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. The Caring Generation focuses on the conversation of caring, giving us permission to talk about aging, the challenges of caregiving, health, the patient experience, family relationships, and everything in between. Caring for an elderly parent you don’t like and thinking, I don’t like my family. Example number three is the idea of the internal tug of war. Many caregivers feel as if they have to project a strong image, and all of us do. How many of you are in a caregiving support group where caregivers actually feel comfortable letting their feelings out? A good caregiving support group is a safe place. Where caregivers can share honest feelings. Feelings that caregivers don’t feel comfortable sharing with friends, family, or an elderly parent or a spouse, for fear of being judged, criticized, or told that you shouldn’t think that way.
35:29 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s look at a problematic care situation, for example, a husband or wife who had a stroke. This person needs a lot of hands-on help. Their brain has been affected by that stroke. What this means is that mom or dad is always not the nicest person. Mom, dad, or a spouse may yell at you and say mean things. If you are a spousal caregiver, your spouse may tell you that you’re worthless. The word divorce might even be mentioned in an angry moment. Could your spouse really survive without you? I don’t know. Harsh words said, even though not rationally meant can cut right to the heart and soul of a caregiver. You may forgive, but you may not forget. You may feel like you’re living under a black cloud where the rain never stops. You may feel pulled down into a state of depression because you don’t have a confidant to share your true feelings.
36:23 Pamela D. Wilson: If this is your situation, join my online caregiving group on Facebook, it’s called The Caregiving Trap. My Facebook page is PamelaDWilsonCaregiving Expert. This group is a safe space to express your feelings with other caregivers who care, understand, and who will support you. Caring for an elderly parent you don’t like, or a spouse you don’t like, or saying, I don’t like my family, can have you going back and forth between feelings of guilt and anger. This leads to the number four why, and this is a warning—talking openly about this why might make you feel a little uncomfortable. Here is the situation, caring for an elderly parent you don’t like or a spouse you don’t like, things that caregivers say, “I wish my spouse were dead.” There, I’ve said it. Do any of you feel this way? It’s okay to admit if you do. Sometimes caregivers feel guilty. That is normal. Spouses can come to resent caring for an older spouse who does nothing to help him or herself.
37:28 Pamela D. Wilson: You may be healthy and energetic; your spouse is not. You’re asking yourself, “Is this all there is? Am I going to spend the rest of my healthy life being a caregiver?” Or even worse, what if you are in an abusive caregiver situation? What do you do? Caring for an elderly parent or a spouse you don’t like can lead to wanting to be relieved of the responsibilities and duties to get your life back, which is the why. You’re working through a difficult situation with the goal of a permanent ending for you and mom, dad, or a spouse. Wishing for death is hoping for an end to feeling guilty, miserable, or exhausted. It doesn’t mean that you really want to die or that you’re really wishing death on someone. Wishing someone was dead does not mean that you don’t love them. You don’t love the situation that being a caregiver has placed you in. Saying, “I don’t like my family,” is similar. You might have ill feelings about a sister or a brother who could be helping you—but who isn’t.
38:30 Pamela D. Wilson: Most people want to end negative, stressful, and unpleasant situations. Caring for an elderly parent you don’t like or saying, “I don’t like my family,” can mean that you’re ready to move on. You want to leave the past behind, to let bygones be bygones. This means, what’s done is done and finished. No more worrying or fretting, you want to move full steam ahead, and life as a caregiver is your goal.
38:53 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s talk about number five, which is the idea of resentment. Wanting to be appreciated or wanting approval and receiving neither. These are complicated. Resentment arises in caregiving situations when there’s a sense of wrong. Caring for an elderly parent you don’t like and feeling unappreciated is that wrong. Having a parent say things that hurt your feelings or bruise your self-esteem—that can feel abusive. How do you know if you’re feeling resentful? Ask yourself these questions. Do you become angry when thinking about caring for an elderly parent you don’t like? Do you replay events in your mind about, “I don’t like my family”? Do you dread visiting mom, dad, or other family members? Do you avoid phone calls, delay visits and try to invent excuses why you can’t do something? Instead of saying, “I don’t want to do this?”
39:46 Pamela D. Wilson: Be honest. Being honest can be so freeing. Although being honest depends on your approach—the words you say and the tone of your voice. I’ll share more about this in a few minutes. One way to work through this is to write your feelings down. Gain clarity about what’s upsetting you. In caregiving, it can be that simple act of one issue piling upon another. It’s like waiting for that straw that breaks the camel’s back.
40:09 Pamela D. Wilson: Number five of the reasons why you are caring for an elderly parent you don’t like is family or societal pressure. Many family members judge. They say that, “Oh, you have to take care of your parents, you have to take care of your spouse. That is your responsibility.” Staying in a caregiving relationship that doesn’t work is not good for you physically or mentally. It’s not good for anyone. It’s not good for your elderly parent, your spouse, or yourself. If you’re struggling with all of this, seek professional counseling or find a support group. The manual for how to plan and coordinate care for elderly parents and spouses, is in my online caregiver course. It’s called Stay at Home, Taking Care of Elderly Parents at Home and Beyond.
40:54 Pamela D. Wilson: More help for caregivers is also in my book. It’s called The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes. Information about the online caregiver course and the caregiver book is on my website, PamelaDWilson.com. You can also make it easier for your elderly parents and your spouses to listen to the show each week—especially if you are having difficulty talking about caregiving. You can install your favorite podcast app on mom or dad’s cellphone, and I’ll start caregiving conversations for you. This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving speaker consultant, on The Caring Generation, Live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
42:57 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, senior care advisor, and speaker consultant on The Caring Generation, Live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. If your company isn’t offering caregiver support programs, maybe it’s time to ask your human resources department to support working caregivers. Caregiver education and programs for corporations and groups, including on-site education, online webinars, video conferencing presentations, and creating a workplace where people matter, are on my website at PamelaDWilson.com.
43:30 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s return to the idea of caring for elderly parents you don’t like, and situations that call this to our attention. When you go out to shop or for an activity, do you ever people watch? Have you ever watched people enjoying themselves and wished that was you? The first thing to consider is to avoid comparing yourself or your family situation to others. I know this can be difficult, but you really never know what goes on inside a family. How do we move past these feelings of feeling bad because our family doesn’t work well together? What about moving past feelings of jealousy in looking at other families who appear on the surface to be ideal. The secret. No family is ideal—even if everybody gets along. That saying that we don’t choose our family, we only choose our friends is especially true in caregiving.
44:22 Pamela D. Wilson: The first solution is that in all relationships, it’s okay to say, “I don’t like you.” When you say, “I don’t like you,” it’s best to be specific about what behaviors you don’t like. And I emphasize the word behaviors. For example, I don’t enjoy being around you because I feel negative energy or because discussions are always contentious. You owe it to yourself to speak up and express your feelings. There are times when you don’t feel the love. You don’t have to hide how you feel. Remember this. You can dislike someone and still be respectful and kind. Maintaining your composure, being patient, and being considerate can take a little bit of effort. In some situations maybe a lot. Solution number two is stating your needs. When caring for elderly parents you don’t like; you can make the same request for effort from your elderly parent.
45:16 Pamela D. Wilson: For example, “Mom, I don’t like you. You may not like me. We have to work through this situation, here’s what I’d like from you. When I’m with you, I ask that you be kind and considerate of other people, and of me. I ask that you don’t talk negatively about others. If you have a concern, state it and then offer a solution. I’m not a sounding board for your complaints. I don’t believe that whining or complaining helps a situation. In my opinion, these behaviors only makes situations worse. If you want to whine or complain, find somebody else who will listen to you, that person isn’t me. You can even go on to say, I’m not asking you to change your behaviors, only to act differently when we’re together.”
46:04 Pamela D. Wilson: When you as a caregiver state what you need, you want consideration in return, You want to give consideration in return. You want to ask your elderly parent what he or she needs, acknowledging that that situation isn’t perfect, but that you can both be adults. Be open-minded in return to what an elderly parent needs from you and do your best to respect the request. You’re looking here at a compromise. The goal is not that you win and your elderly parent loses or vice versa. If you can’t totally do what mom or dad needs—like listening to their complaining, be honest, and say so. Negativity is one of the top relationship killers in all types of relationships. Suggest counseling as a solution. Once you have a reasonable agreement between what you need and what an elderly parent needs, restate the agreement as necessary to keep the relationship balanced. Don’t backpedal. You worked hard to get here.
47:01 Pamela D. Wilson: The number three solution to caring for elderly parents you don’t like is to avoid drama or theatrics. In caregiving experiences, drama exists when other people, like brothers and sisters, have different opinions. Differences of opinions are okay. You’re not there to convince, argue, or debate—especially if you are that primary caregiver and family wants to tell you what to do without offering any help. How often does this happen,? You all know what happens all too often. Solution number four—a few tips to remove yourself from lengthy situations, caring for elderly parents you don’t like. Find a way to minimize the time you spend with an elderly parent. For a spouse, this can be more difficult because you live together, but it can be done in both cases. Hiring an outside caregiver to take care of your elderly parent or a spouse so that you can take a regular break can make all the difference in the world. When you know that every Tuesday evening, you have me time, this can help balance your emotions to get you through to Tuesday evening. Another idea is to make visits task-oriented. You’re not there to socialize. You are there to complete the task at hand to get in and get out. Letting an elderly parent know that your visits are not meant to be social is the best way to establish this boundary.
48:21 Pamela D. Wilson: You want to spend your social time in pleasurable situations with your family, your children, your friends, doing things that you actually enjoy. If your elderly parent needs socialization, mom or dad has to seek this out with their friends or attend social groups or find other ways to socialize. In a spousal relationship, this means time away for you—the caregiving spouse to spend time with friends and going to social groups and activities. This is a clear relationship differentiator. Time spent socializing with others for caregivers has positive benefits to physical and mental health long-term. Minimizing the time spent with an elderly parent includes creating an exit plan—and what is that you might ask? It’s creating some type of time limitation. For example, you set an alarm in your phone that goes off 30 minutes after you arrive. When the alarm goes off, it’s time to leave. You know how time can pass quickly—you call mom or dad when you’re driving to an appointment, that’s another example. When you arrive, you end the phone call. T these are realistic ways to set time boundaries that protect the time you need to get other things done in your life.
49:38 Pamela D. Wilson: We all know how quickly time and projects can expand. When you limit the time, you feel that you have more control over the situation. The key is to be realistic about how much time you need. You can’t set a 30-minute time frame and expect to complete a three-hour project—that will only stress you out more. We’ll talk more about taking care of elderly parents you don’t like after this break. More information about taking care of elderly parents and how I help caregivers and corporations interested in elder care programs and solutions is on my website at PamelaDWilson.com. This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving author, expert, and speaker consultant on The Caring Generation. Live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
51:40 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, and consultant. I’m your host. This is The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults. Live on the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Solution number five for caring for elderly parents you don’t like—or dwelling on I don’t like my family, is to stop trying to figure out other people that you really don’t want to spend time with anyway. This is unproductive brain time. How to do this? Be patient with yourself. Realize that things won’t always happen fast enough. People always don’t do what they’re supposed to do. This is another realization. You may have an unmet expectation and experience a lot of disappointment. Think of this on the other side. You could be the person who frustrates someone else.
52:36 Pamela D. Wilson: Patience in any situation doesn’t mean that we sit and wait for a solution to arrive. Patience is the idea of stopping to think, observe, realize when you’re becoming emotionally upset and press that pause button. How do you respond to frustration? Do you snap, blame, or lose your cool? Do you self-medicate with junk food, maybe some alcohol, maybe some drugs? Do you blow up at others to protect yourself? Do you say things you don’t mean? Caring for elderly parents you don’t like or a spouse you don’t like can bring out the worst in all of us. Then what happens? We as caregivers feel guilty. Here’s a few tips to avoid the frustration that takes us to anger and guilt: Be patient with yourself. Pause and breathe before you respond. Take any personal feelings about that situation and try to get down to the real problem. Ask mom, dad, or a spouse to explain to you so that you understand their perspective about what they’re upset about. After you’ve listened, restate that problem, so that you can confirm that you understand. You might be shocked that you didn’t hear their problem correctly. If so, ask and listen again.
53:47 Pamela D. Wilson: If the other person didn’t explain how the issue makes them feel, you can ask that also—but do it in a non-blaming matter. For example, “I know the situation is stressful for both of us. I would appreciate you not yelling at me even when you get frustrated. That doesn’t put me in a place of wanting to continue to help you.” Agree that you both have feelings, then agree to move toward a solution. Ask how they would solve the problem and listen. Give your solutions. Ask them to listen to you and then come to some kind of an agreement. Be compassionate and state what you need. Caring for elderly parents you don’t like doesn’t have to destroy your life. If you choose to respond differently and set boundaries. That path forward begins with understanding the why of caring for elderly parents you don’t like. Throwing out the relationship baggage. Acknowledging that internal tug of war that you might experience between doing the right thing, but still being able to express your frustrations is important.
54:50 Pamela D. Wilson: Wishing for a situation to change or to be over, doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. It’s okay to say, “I don’t like you, and I don’t like this situation. I wish it was different for both of us, but it’s not.” Then you agree to find a way to work through it in the least frustrating way possible for both of us. Caregiving situations are not perfect. Ask for the help, the education that you need from elderly parents, your family, and the workplace, I thank you to all the caregivers who continue to complete the caregiver stress assessment, the survey on my website at PamelaDWilson.com, go to the contact me button and scroll down to find this. Sharing your stories with me helps me create this radio show for you each week. All of you caregivers are amazing. Invite your elderly parents, spouses, friends, and family to join us here every Wednesday night on The Caring Generation Radio show. This is Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert, senior care advisor, and speaker consultant. God bless all of you, sleep well tonight, and have a fabulous day tomorrow and a great week until we are here together again.
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