Giving Up Your Life to Care for Elderly Parents

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The Caring Generation® – Episode 57 September 23, 2020. On this caregiving radio program, Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert talks about working and caring for elderly parents relating to Giving Up Your Life to Care for Elderly Parents. Guest Dr. Vanessa Bohns from Cornell University ILR shares research about How to Ask for Help Without Feeling Guilty.

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Giving Up Your Life to Care for Elderly Parents


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.


00:48 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. 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 loved ones, all tied together with humor and laughter that are essential to being a caregiver. The subject for our caregiving radio program is giving up your life to care for elderly parents by request of many caregivers. Adult children caregivers experience a whole range of emotions in the process of working and caring for elderly parents, that feels like a balancing act. During this radio program for caregivers, I’ll share seven helpful insights about giving up your life to care for elderly parents. The guest for the health and wellness segment of this caregiver radio program is Dr. Vanessa Bohns, Associate Professor in the Department of Organizational Behavior at the ILR School at Cornell University. ILR stands for Industrial and Labor Relations. The ILR School focuses on work, employment, and labor issues. You might be wondering how Dr. Bohns applies—her research focuses on social influence and the extent to which people recognize the influence they have on others. How does this apply to caregivers?

02:13 Pamela D. Wilson: She joins us to talk to caregivers about how to ask for help without feeling guilty. Asking for help and feeling guilty are topics that most caregivers know very well. This leads us back to the subject of giving up your life to care for elderly parents. The first insight is called pain and joy. How to live through losses? We experience losses in life as a result of a lot of separate and combined events. For caregivers, giving up your life to care for elderly parents builds on personal and caregiving losses. Working and caring for elderly parents involves personal losses, like watching the health of elderly parents decline. Feeling helpless and knowing that you, the caregiver, might eventually be in the same situation as your elderly parents. That can be really scary. Shifts in family roles and responsibilities result from being a caregiver. Some caregivers consider the time responsibilities of working and caring for elderly parents to be overwhelming, and honestly, they are. The idea of giving up your life to care for elderly parents is more apparent when you give up a job, or you give up a promising career. The long-term effects may not be evident right away. Family and friends might tell you that your reward will be in heaven. While that may be true, that doesn’t really help a caregiver today.

03:45 Pamela D. Wilson: Thinking of heaven might be comforting, though, until you try to re-enter the workforce and get a job. Employers tell you, “Oh, what a nice thing you did, giving up your life to care for elderly parents.” But your skills—they are outdated. Now, you struggle to find a job and learn new skills. Even a couple of years out of the workplace can result in a wake-up call that working and caring for elderly parents by remaining employed might have been the better path to take, instead of giving up your life to care for elderly parent totally. On a similar subject. The subject of money and financial planning, the cost of caring for elderly parents, they quickly add up. Health insurance, medications, alternative therapies like massage or chiropractic, add to this— in-home caregivers, the potential of moving to a care community at $180 or more per day or a nursing home at $300 per day. Caregivers quickly realized that elderly parents haven’t saved. That there isn’t enough money to pay for this type of care. The next realization is that there are trade-offs between working and caring for elderly parents, and that giving up your life to care for elderly parents—while a noble idea, may not or may not have been a very logical or practical idea when you look back.

05:12 Pamela D. Wilson: What happens when the caregiver needs care, and there is no money? Is sending caregiving responsibilities down to the next generation, your children, a thoughtful decision? In my years as a care navigator, I met with a lot of elderly parents who were planning for their care. Elderly parents who told me that their children would gladly accept caregiving responsibilities. I’m smiling because you know what’s coming up here. My question to them, “have you asked your children, or are you assuming this is the way that it will be?” You might be surprised to hear that many of these elderly parents had not had caregiving decisions or discussions with their adult children. That is no surprise. Most parents assume that working and caring for elderly parents would be a priority for their adult children who became caregivers. This is how the idea of giving up your life to care for elderly parents should begin in families. There should be discussions about caregiving and how caregiving responsibilities affect adult children, their lives, their families, their work.

06:21 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s talk more about pain and joy. How to live through losses that extend beyond caregiving. COVID-19 is a loss for so many people. Small business owners have closed their businesses. Industries like travel, entertainment are suffering. Many young people, many older people close to retirement, lost their jobs. A lot of people are now worrying about how they will live and pay their bills. Working and caring for elderly parents is more worrisome for caregivers, concerned about elderly parents who live in care communities, or those who want to bring caregivers into the home. A lot of empty nesters were so excited to have their adult children move out of their homes. A lot of these people accepted their children back into the homes, and these children have mental health, they have addiction issues or self-destructive behaviors. These parents are becoming caregivers again for their young children.

07:12 Pamela D. Wilson: In all of this, what are the lessons for working and caring for elderly parents, and the idea of giving up your life to care for elderly parents? The first lesson is to spend less and save money. We never know when an unexpected life situation of experiencing a health change or needing care will happen. COVID-19 is certainly proof that life is filled with unforeseen events that we even can’t imagine. Having any savings cushion, a financial cushion can soften the blow of circumstances out of our control until we can regroup and make a plan.

07:46 Pamela D. Wilson: The second lesson is to make plans and decisions while you can. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia is life-changing as is any diagnosis of a terminal life-ending disease. Third lesson is to find support and education. The idea of finding a community, whether that community is a support group, a church or a synagogue, caregiving groups, other groups. All of this contact with others can help us manage through life’s unexpected situations—pursuing education, caregiving education so that you understand the stages of caregiving. This is information the healthcare system isn’t going to teach you, and also how to manage through caregiving situations that are frustrating.

08:24 Pamela D. Wilson: My online caregiver course: Taking Care of Elderly Parents, Stay at Home and Beyond, is on my website at That online course for caregivers is available through corporations and groups. Because research has proven that caregivers learn better when they are with other caregivers in groups and courses and in support groups. We’re off to a break. Up next, Dr. Vanessa Bohns, how to ask for help without feeling guilty. This is 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.


11:27 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert. I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio show for caregivers and aging adults. Live from the BBM Global Network, channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Joining us is Dr. Vanessa Bohns from the Industrial and Labor Relations School at Cornell University. Dr. Bohns, thank you for joining us.

11:48 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: Hi, Pamela, thank you so much for having me on.

11:51 Pamela D. Wilson: So let me jump in. I have a list the questions for you. Are we born with empathetic traits, or is empathy learned?

11:58 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: Yes, this is a really great question, not because it’s kind of philosophically interesting, but because it’s extremely practically important. If we’re just born with the amount of empathy we’ll have, there’s nothing to do to change it. There’s no real action that we can take. And so to answer this question—I think it first helps to step back and define what we mean by empathy. I think we tend to think of empathy as synonymous with caring. So you’re basically a caring person or not. But psychologists who study empathy, like, for example, Jamil Zaki, who wrote a wonderful book called The War for Kindness, which I highly recommend, define empathy in a more precise way, that’s really more similar to a set of skills. And so those skills include things like being able to recognize what somebody else is feeling. To truly feel what they’re feeling. Which gives you an understanding of what someone else is going through. And something called empathic concern, which is basically wanting to alleviate someone else’s suffering and acting in a way that does so, or at least tries to do so.

13:06 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: So, when you think of this kind of definition of empathy, you can certainly imagine certain people who are more likely to display these skills than others. So people who have a greater propensity to recognize and appreciate other’s feelings, who display what we would call trait empathy, but you can also see from this definition that you can also cultivate these skills. It’s not just a quality that lives inside of an individual. It’s also something, for example, that can be induced in the moment. So, you can read a story that suddenly makes you attend to summon feelings and feel deeply what that person is feeling, so can kind of be prompted to feel empathy. And at the same time, you can work on empathy almost like a muscle and grow empathy by developing these skills. So, it really does seem to be more than just something you’re born with.

14:00 Pamela D. Wilson: Caregivers tend to be more empathetic and many of them keep doing more and more and more. Is it possible to be too helpful?

14:08 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: Yes. So, empathy is certainly associated with all sorts of good things, and most notably, one of those things is helping more. But empathy, like most things in life isn’t all one thing or another, so it’s not all good. You can have too much empathy to the point where you burn out, and you can’t stop yourself from really identifying with other people suffering and feeling their suffering, and you can experience or hate feeling someone’s suffering so much that you’re kind of emotionally over-involved and you over-help or you overstep your boundaries. So there’s a phenomenon that’s actually called miscarried helping. It’s been studied in a number of different relationships, most often between parents who are caregivers and their children who are suffering some sort of chronic illness, maybe diabetes or chronic pain and other illnesses. But it’s also been studied in many other types of relationships.

15:04 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: And what it basically is, is stepping in too much so that you’re over-helping or helping in ways that ultimately backfire. So, ways in which you’re actually sort of— because you hate to see that person suffer and you want to step in and do something about it. You’re actually sort of taking away their autonomy. And research has shown that a sense of autonomy and a sense of control is really important for people’s well-being. For example, there’s a classic study that was done in nursing homes, where nursing home residents were given a plant. They were either given a plant that they cared for on their own—so they had some sort of control over this plant—or they were told the nurses were going to come to take care of this plant. And what they found was that people who actually had control over the plant themselves had greater well-being because they had this greater sense of control and autonomy. So, empathy can drive you to sort of over-help, and that can kind of take over someone else’s autonomy, which can ultimately have negative effects.

16:06 Pamela D. Wilson: So how can having maybe not enough empathy affect somebody’s willingness or thoughts about asking for help or helping other people?

16:15 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: Yes, this is really interesting. I think it helps to think—instead of thinking of a lack of empathy—I like to think of something that’s called an empathy gap. And so empathy gaps are things that we all experience in all sorts of situations, where we basically struggle to understand what someone else is feeling accurately or how strongly they’re feeling something. And I like thinking about empathy gaps instead of a lack of empty because there isn’t really a negative connotation. We all do this, and it’s very situation-specific. So, in the moment, for example, I may be struggling to understand what you’re feeling, and that can change. And so, one of the contexts in which we see these empathy gaps are context of helping. In a helping situation, you have two individuals who have high emotions. Basically, helping is actually a very fraught kind of context. You’ve got someone who needs help, and they feel vulnerable, and they’re worried about asking and being a burden, and they’re embarrassed to ask. So they have all these sort of self-conscious emotions that they’re focused on. And then you have someone who wants to help. Who’s worried about the other person and who is worried about themselves sort of looking like a good person, feeling like a good person, helping in an appropriate way.

17:31 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: And those two people are so focused on their own emotions that they have a hard time recognizing what the other person feels, and so they have a hard time asking for help in the most effective way or helping in the most effective way.

17:43 Pamela D. Wilson: And we’re going head out to a break. So we’ll start this question if we have to cut out—we’ll cut out—but your article talks about the myth of self-interest. Can you explain that?

17:52 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: Sure. The myth of self-interest is basically this mistaken assumption that other people only do things in their own self-interest. So they don’t do things because they want to help others. And it’s actually a great example of this empathy gap I’m talking about. So when we ask for help, we think other people may just do it if there’s something in it for them. So they kind of downplay what we’re asking for—we offer something in exchange. When, in fact, people are often quite happy to help for nothing and just feel good helping. And so, it’s a good example of the ways in which our inability to recognize someone else’s motivations and feelings can actually lead us to ask for help in effective ways.

18:34 Pamela D. Wilson: And I know caregivers have a really hard time asking for help. So you mentioned miscarried helping. Spell that word, is it miscarry, or how would I look that up on the Internet? I’m very curious about it.

18:49 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: Yes, miscarried, M-I-S-C-A-R-R-I-E-D, and it’s basically kind of helping us almost mishandled. You could think of it like that, but it’s basically over-helping. Helping in ways that I think will be helpful, but the other person didn’t necessarily say that’s what they wanted or necessarily wanted me to help in that particular way.

19:11 Pamela D. Wilson: Okay. We have to cut out to a break. This is 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 with Dr. Bohns.


21:41 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert. I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio show on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. We’re back to continue our conversation with Dr. Vanessa Bohns from the Industrial and Labor Relations school at Cornell University. Dr. Bohns, so let’s talk about caregivers who want to do everything. What I find is if they ask for help and they are rejected, especially by a family member, they are afraid to ask again. Is there a way to overcome that belief that somebody is always going to tell us no?

22:13 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: Yes, this is a really big issue, and it’s actually an issue in lots of different contexts. So negative events tend to weigh very heavily on us. Negative experiences are much more salient, and they stay with us longer than the equivalent positive experiences. And rejection—being rejected when we ask for help—for example, is a particularly negative emotional experience. Even rejections over things that seem trivial can sting more than we might think they should, and they can really stick with us and make us hesitate to ask that person for something again. Because we’re so loathe to experience another rejection. And so, what that does is it really leads us to exaggerate the meaning of a rejection. We interpret that rejection as meaning something bigger about us, or the relationship we have with that person or about the thing we’re asking for—like there was something wrong with what I was asking. I was asking for too much. This person didn’t really want to help me. They don’t care about me as much as I thought they did. Or actually, this person isn’t as helpful as I thought they were. I attribute it to this person, not wanting to help in general or not being a very caring person.

23:23 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: So we kind of can make a bigger deal out of our rejection than it actually tends to be. So when people do say no, it’s more often than not because of circumstances, because they happen to not be able to do something that day. Or it could even be, they weren’t feeling up to it for a particular day. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that on any other day, they would feel the same way. And so, we tend to think that a no, a single no is sort of an indication of a stable response we’re always going to get from this person or when we ask this particular thing, when in fact, that tends not to be true.

24:05 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: So, for example, in some studies that my colleagues and I have done, we had people go out and ask people for favors. And we ask them for each person who says no to the favor, how likely do you think they would be to say yes or no to another favor? And for those who say yes, how likely do you think they would be to agree to another favor? And they went out, and they asked people for these things, and they thought that if they asked one for something and they said no, that person would be more likely to say no again. And they thought if they asked them once for something and they said yes, they’d be more likely to say yes again. But in fact, what we’ve found is that people who said no the first time, were actually more likely to say yes the second time, because they felt so bad about saying no that first time. So, in fact, often people feel bad saying no, they genuinely want to help. But we think we kind of treat it as this overblown thing that, oh, I shouldn’t have asked, I shouldn’t ask this person anymore.

25:03 Pamela D. Wilson: So, based on that research, who should help seekers ask for help? How do we know?

25:10 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: Yes, so sort of stemming from that research, one thing that that research suggests is that we should ask people who have said no before—and we tend not to think that when we’re asking people for help. So we tend to go back into this kind of spiral of I don’t want to ask that person. I don’t want to risk rejection again. But what that does is that over-burdens the people who said yes the first time—right? And then you’re constantly relying on the same people as opposed to spreading out and asking more people for help. And in facts based on that research, we know that even though someone said no, that doesn’t mean that now you can never go to them, and now you have a limited pool of people you can ask for help. In fact, you have a bigger pool than you realize. Because you’re kind of discounting these people who said no. So that’s one group of people we tend to overlook, and another group of people we tend to overlook is acquaintances and strangers.

26:05 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: So we tend to feel most comfortable asking friends and family and close others for help. And in fact, those are the people we ask most often. But in fact, in many cases, acquaintances and strangers are willing to go above and beyond and do more for us than we tend to assume. So we have some other studies where we had people guess the likelihood that their friends or random strangers would agree to do a favor for them. And in both cases, they thought people were more likely to say no to them than people actually were. But when asking friends, they underestimated just a little bit how likely people would be to do a favor for them. When asking strangers, they underestimated by this huge amount. So they basically thought like, “okay, I can probably get the help of my friends, not as much as I really could.” But for strangers, they kind of completely discounted what acquaintances and strangers might be able to do for them. So we tend to sort of overlook this whole untapped world of people who could actually help out. An acquaintance at work who could watch your kids for a couple of hours if you need to go run and see your parent, for example.

27:15 Pamela D. Wilson: And you have another article, it’s called, Why Didn’t You Ask? Why do people find it so hard to ask for help?

27:23 Dr. Vanessa Bohns: Yes, it’s truly astounding the lengths people will go to, and the things they’ll suffer rather than ask for help. There’s research showing that people will suffer bullying for years rather than ask for help. And then there’s these light-hearted stories that people who get lost and don’t ask for help. And it turns out we have a lot of fears about what it means to ask for help. What it means for us. What we’re revealing about ourselves and what it means to other people. So we worry that by asking for help or revealing these vulnerabilities, it’s really awkward and embarrassing. We feel like a burden to others. We feel dependent on others and indebted to others. We worry about rejection. But their research really shows that all of those fears are unfounded, so they’re justifiable and that lots of people have them. It’s totally normal to have them. But when you actually look at the data, people don’t judge us as harshly as we think they will for asking for help, and they’re more likely to help us than we think they will be.

28:24 Pamela D. Wilson: Dr. Vanessa Bohns, thank you so much for joining us. Listeners, I will put links to her profile so that you can look her up. I will include with her permission links to the articles that she’s published. Listeners do invite your friends and your family to join us every Wednesday evening, follow and share The Caring Generation on your favorite podcast apps, Apple, Google Spreaker, Spotify, Stitcher, Pandora, IHeart Radio, Castbox, Amazon, Alexa and more. 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.


31:14 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert. I’m your host, you’re listening to The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults, live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. Let’s return to the subject of giving up your life to care for aging parents and working and caring for elderly parents. In the first part of this program, we talked about pain and joy. How to live through losses. The second insight into giving up your life to care for aging parents is managing through uncertainty and constant change. When the health of elderly parents is complicated, sometimes caregivers may visit, leave, and wonder, even if they will see their elderly parent the next day. If you’re a caregiver, you know how quickly health situations change. A parent who woke up this morning feeling good, may have a fever and be delirious this evening. You’re now rushing to the hospital. These unexpected events guarantee that working and caring for elderly parents can feel like a juggling act. Giving up your life to care for aging parents means that it really is impossible to know what might happen tomorrow in the life of an elderly parent who needs care.

32:29 Pamela D. Wilson: As a caregiver, it’s easy to dwell on situations that we can’t control because our brain goes to that place of fear and irrational and emotional thinking. We’re afraid of what might happen. We’re afraid we may not know what to do. As caregivers experience uncertainty, it’s easy to let our emotions to take over our lives. Giving up your life to care for aging parents may mean that your only focus is working and caring for elderly parents. You may not have any other outlets like exercise, meditation, activities that reduce stress and feeling like sometimes you’re just pushed up against a wall to do everything that you have to get accomplished. If you can learn to reflect, which means think instead of react, this is helpful. If you give yourself 24 hours to make any kind of important decisions—unless they’re really time-sensitive—rather than rushing, you’ll be able to notice the stages that your brain goes through. Your brain may start out very emotionally at first in fear by wanting to react. After a few hours, though, your brain might move into problem-solving mode.

33:42 Pamela D. Wilson: You might relate the present situation to another near disaster that you successfully solved. By shifting your mind to a more calm position, your brain can relax. You’ll gain more confidence about giving up your life to care for aging parents as being a more valuable, less stressful journey. You can always make a list of knowns and unknowns. When caregivers realize that every situation is different, planning for uncertainty becomes a very helpful process while working and caring for elderly parents. You can gain confidence also by participating in online support groups and online caregiver courses. You don’t even have to leave your home. Caregiver education helps caregivers to manage through uncertainty and to always have a backup plan. Through this, caregivers learn that working and caring for elderly parents can be manageable. Caregivers know that giving up your life to care for elderly parents may not be the only option as you become more educated. As you focus your attention on what you can do and what’s possible, all that uncertainty of caregiving fades.

34:45 Pamela D. Wilson: The third insight to giving up your life to care for aging parents is to realize that choices have consequences, sacrifices, and sometimes create more unexpected hardships. This is the idea of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Let’s relate this to the notion of unexpected healthcare issues. Every day when we get into our car, most of us automatically put on that seat belt. It’s a precautionary measure that we do without even thinking about it anymore. Preparing for the health for elderly parents can relieve the stress of working and caring for elderly parents. By having conversations about financial, how to pay for care, and legal matters, caregivers can avoid giving up your life to care for aging parents and create more balance.

35:33 Pamela D. Wilson: Do you know what your parents want in the event of a serious illness? Have your parents created their medical and financial power of attorney documents and a living will? Can you answer the question of what is a DNR? If not, make time for you and your parents to listen to The Caring Generation podcast called What is a DNR? Caregiving conversations can be delayed until an unexpected event happens, because we don’t think that anything is ever going to happen. Working and caring for elderly parents, though, runs more smoothly when we talk about care before care is needed. As time passes in caregiving, situations can get to the point where we can’t reverse things. For example, an early diagnosis of high blood pressure can be managed by a change in diet or some exercise. If we ignore high blood pressure, that could turn into a heart attack or a stroke. If we don’t have regular medical care—that can cause more issues. Strokes can have serious consequences. Your elderly parent could be paralyzed on one side of their body. Mom or dad may not be able to speak clearly anymore, and living at home for them might not be possible after a stroke.

36:43 Pamela D. Wilson: Choices about working and caring for elderly parents includes the discussion of who will care for elderly parents? What are the care preferences? Do they want to stay home? Is moving to a care community an option, and how are we going to pay for care? To be proactive, embracing a healthy lifestyle can involve some sacrifices for all of us. No more pizza donuts, diet soda. The benefits—better long-term health—and the possibility of not having expensive care costs, which means we may not have to go to a nursing home. We can talk about choices, consequences, trade-offs, sacrifices. That is the best way to prevent adult children caregivers from giving up your life to care for aging parents. Talking about the realities of giving up a job, working and caring for elderly parents, how children can be affected and ways to ensure that elderly parents get the care they need, these are important things we should talk about.

37:42 Pamela D. Wilson: Start these conversations today if you have not—long before your elderly parents need more care. Have a plan in place. Investigate preventative measures. Save money to pay for care, and you will sleep easier, and your adult children will thank you. Be the caregiver or the aging parent who starts these discussions from a place of love. The idea of giving up your life to care for aging parents doesn’t have to be that challenging, if you plan ahead and have these conversations. Help for caregivers and aging adults about planning for care conversations and managing care is in my book; it is called The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes. You can go to my website. It’s If you click on the library, there is a drop-down there that reads Book, and I actually have a few videos that talk about what is in that book, The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes. You can order it on my website, or you can also find it on Amazon, so check it out. This is Pamela D. Wilson; you are with me on The Caring Generation live from the BBM global network channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.


41:13 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert, author, and speaker on The Caring Generation live from the BBM global network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Information for corporations and groups about elder care and caregiving on-site education, online webinars, video conferencing, presentations, and creating a workplace where people matter, are on my website at We’re back with insight number four, for giving up your life to care for elderly parents, it’s the idea of caregiving resentment. Working and caring for elderly parents can feel like a daily grind. Especially if elderly parents expect you to keep adding tasks on top of tasks. Especially if elderly parents never thank you. Resentment happens when we replay all these negative feelings. It happens in the workplace too, when we feel that a co-worker receives favorable treatment or isn’t pulling his or her weight. Giving up your life to care for elderly parents may also connect to long-standing family conflicts. Maybe your brother or sister did something long ago, and you’re still thinking about it today. You can’t let go of it, or vice versa, they can’t give it up. The outcome is that you and your siblings don’t get along, and you’re angry for giving up your life to care for an elderly parent when your brothers or sisters could help, but they don’t.

42:33 Pamela D. Wilson: We can pass through resentment by making a choice to forgive ourselves and others for actions that created the resentment. While we may not forget, accepting our part in allowing that situation to happen and to have these feelings of resentment fester is something that we made the choice to do. Make a decision that you won’t let this happen again. Have a plan to respond positively to manage situations that make you feel resentful, within your family, with friends, and in the workplace, negative feelings. Constant complaining, feeling resentful—it can actually be addictive. We become hooked on our beliefs as we let our brains run wild. Instead of taking control of those thoughts, we can allow our emotions to run all over the place. We don’t have to do that. Realize that when caregivers are tired, exhausted, angry, maybe feeling lonely or isolated—do you realize that your moods are up and down all over the place? That makes it easy for our mind to go to that dark side of not thinking clearly. If we can become aware of our thoughts and our circumstances, we can recognize these situations that take us from being thoughtful and calm to crazy. When we dwell on negative feelings, we’re the person that gets harmed, not anybody else. It’s likely that people that we get angry with, they aren’t even thinking about whatever happened. We’re dwelling on it, we want to give ourselves that freedom to move ahead.

44:00 Pamela D. Wilson: Insight number five for giving up your life to care for elderly parents, is the idea of balance and 50/50 participation. Caregiving and care receiving go both ways. The caregiving trap that most often happens is that a family caregiver—as we talked with Dr. Bohns—feels like he or she has to do it all. That you can’t ask for help. Those hours, they start small. A couple of hours a week here and there. Over time, you’re doing 20 or more hours a week without any conversation about anybody else helping you. The caregiver gives, and the care receiver receives. Many adult children provide assisted living type care in the homes of elderly parents so that they can stay there. This results in savings of thousands of dollars for elderly parents every month. And I’m not saying that elderly parents should pay their children for care, not saying that at all. What elderly parent should do is participate in their care. What do I mean? In the situation today, what’s the cause and effect for elderly parents needing care? Are there life-long health habits that resulted in a diagnosis like heart disease, arthritis, COPD, diabetes? Did these issues result in giving up your life to care for elderly parents? Are you running ragged working and trying to balance care for elderly parents? Until you speak up and ask for help—like we discussed in the interview with Dr. Vanessa Bohns—you won’t get the help that you need.

45:28 Pamela D. Wilson: It can be a struggle for all of us to admit that our habits or behaviors might not be good for us, that we’re afraid to ask other people for help. And then what about your health? Do you, as the caregiver, have high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure? Have you even been to a doctor lately? Do you know caregivers are not always great about seeking medical care? All of these choices have consequences for caregivers. Until all of us become more educated on how changing our habits and our behaviors can positively affect our lives, we might not see the benefits of making any changes. The US healthcare system is not a situation of prevention. Doctors will treat you after you become sick. They don’t educate you about how to stay healthy and avoid being sick. If we change the US healthcare system to support prevention and education, starting back in grade school, we could save billions of dollars. If consumers would participate—the question is, would you? Would you change your habits if you knew that you could avoid health issues like being miserable and sick in old age? What would you be willing to do?

46:41 Pamela D. Wilson: If you’re interested in learning more on this, listen to The Caring Generation podcast. It is called Why is Patient Education and Engagement So Important? Share that one with your elderly parents and your family. That favorite caregiving podcast has an interview with Dr. Mayer Davidson; he’s past President of the American Diabetes Association. He’s a medical expert, and he talks about managing diabetes. So many people have diabetes, and it is undiagnosed.

47:08 Pamela D. Wilson: Insight number six for giving up your life to care for elderly parents is to find or create small pleasures. Routine activities by caregivers like going for a drive in the car or going to the grocery store are sometimes small pleasures because caregivers rarely have the opportunity to get out of that house. Can you imagine—and I know some of you are this—are you that 24/7 caregiver who gave up your life to care for elderly parents? You can’t leave that house unless somebody else shows up because your elderly parents need constant care or constant supervision, you’re on call 24/7? You could be awake all night. You’re busy all day, and just when you think you can put your feet up, guess what? Something unexpected happens. Working and caring for elderly parents can mean that you rarely get to take a break. Spouses are in the same situation. Going to the grocery store might be a really fun event for you because you are out of the house.

48:02 Pamela D. Wilson: When I was a 24/7 caregiver, my guilty pleasure was going to the gym. That was one time a day when I didn’t look at or answer my cellphone. I was free from everything. Although when I got out of the gym, I had probably 20 phone calls and 20 emails that I needed to answer back. So as caregivers, we have to find ways to get out of our routine. Take small breaks, even if it’s only for 10 or 15 or 20 or 30 minutes. Get out and do things that can help us care for ourselves. More on giving up your life to care for elderly parents and working and caring for elderly parents after this break. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving author, expert, and speaker. This is The Caring Generation, live from the BBM global network channel 100 and TuneIn radio, stay with me. We’ll be right back.


51:11 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert. I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults, live on the BBM global network channel 100 and TuneIn radio. You can take my caregiver survey; it is on my website at Click on the contact me button, and it will show up. This is how I create these subjects for all of these radio shows, and a lot of the caregiving courses that I’ve developed, it all comes from the ideas of caregivers. What you’re experiencing and the opinions that you give me. You can go on my website and share that information. Support for caregivers is here every week on The Caring Generation, every Wednesday night, also on my website, Coming up next week we have Dr. Katherine Ornstein. She is joining us from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She’s going to talk about her research about spousal caregivers and their relationships in the last years of life. Add a reminder on your cell phone or email calendar to join us, invite your parents.

52:12 Pamela D. Wilson: The last insight, insight number seven for giving up your life to care for elderly parents, is to realize that we will all be the age of our parents someday. So we should have a little bit of compassion, and if we can grow some empathy, that would be good too. Recognizing the fact that we will age—what steps can we take today to make the best of our health working and caring for elderly parents, and the thought of giving up your life to care for elderly parents? The way to a better experience is to create positive family relationships. If you have family who generally gets along well, consider yourself very fortunate. Family situations and relationships can change when we become caregivers, working, and caring for elderly parents; it’s usually left to an adult daughter or an adult son.

53:03 Pamela D. Wilson: A lot of caregivers ask, why is it that women always have to be the caregivers? Honestly, that is a million-dollar question. I think in part it’s because long-standing family cultural beliefs exist that women take care of family and men earn the money. But how do we change these beliefs? We have to talk about caregiving being a family responsibility and a choice. Conversations that build up the expectation that women have to give up their lives to care for elderly parents and raise children—we have to change that. Until women start thinking about, I have a choice. I can do this, I don’t have to do this. Until women start asking these questions and realizing that they have choices, women will remain that primary caregiver. It’s a life choice. It’s a choice that we make. Make sure there’s a plan for you if you are becoming a caregiver for lost income and retirement savings if you’re giving up that job. Also choose not to push down generational caregiving issues within families. Create a plan where your children may not have to take care of you because you’ve taken such good care of yourself. Helpful information for caregivers and aging adults is on my website at in my caring for aging caregiving blog. You can check out all the replays of The Caring Generation radio program there.

54:24 Pamela D. Wilson: Do ask for the help. Ask for the education that you need from your families in the workplace, again, if you have ideas for future programs, you can visit my website,, click on the contact me button and complete that caregiver survey. I ask five questions, you can share your thoughts about your caregiving situation, what information you’d like that hasn’t been available. What subjects you would like for me to talk about on this radio program? I’m here to help. You can invite your family and friends to join us here every Wednesday night on The Caring Generation radio show. You know the show is on Apple Podcast, Google podcast, and others. Why don’t you put an app on the cellphone of your aging parents, so that it’s easy for them to join us every Wednesday night, or they can listen to the podcast after the show airs. I’d appreciate you doing that, and I’m sure that your elderly parents might actually find the information entertaining. And imagine all the conversations that you don’t have to have if I am having the conversations for you. Also check out my book on the website, it is called The Caregiving Trap, you can check it out by going to the; how I help page, the library, and the book page.

55:36 Pamela D. Wilson: Caregivers, thank you for everything that you do. You are truly amazing. Family Caregivers and professional caregivers, God bless you all sleep well tonight. Have a really great day tomorrow and a great week until we are here together again.


55:54 Announcer: Tune in each week for The Caring Generation with host, Pamela D. Wilson. Come join the conversation and see how Pamela can provide solutions and peace of mind for everyone, here on Pamela D. Wilson’s The Caring Generation.

Looking For Answers to Common Caregiving Questions? Listen to More of The Caring Generation Radio Shows HERE.

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About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

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