Here are a few tips for the 35 million Americans who care for a beloved elder.
With tongue placed firmly in cheek, repeat after me, I do hereby resolve:
To not lose my patience when I say, "Dad, we have to do something about your memory," and he says, "I agree. Who's Dad?"
To tolerate the heat in my beloved elder's home even though it feels like the furnace is set at "nuclear blast."
To remain calm when my beloved elder insists that he is still "perfectly all right to drive,” even though we are both squished into the front of a tow truck.
To not pull my hair out when my beloved elder says, "I know, I'm a martyr and I only have myself to blame."
To not respond when my beloved elder asks, "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?" And I’m thinking, “Your clothes are so old that if I threw them in a thrift store bin, the bin would throw them back!”
To deal with deep bouts of depression, frustration, loneliness, temporary mental breakdowns — and that’s just my own!
To avoid saying, when he asks if his new girlfriend could replace my deceased mother, "It's alright with me — if the mortician can arrange it."
To not complain when I promise myself to take time to work on my backhand, but instead install my tennis balls on the bottom of my beloved elder's walker.
To not repeat that my beloved elder doesn't need longer arms to read better — just a new eyeglass prescription.
To be patient when my detailed instruction about any "newfangled gadget" that glows, blinks, buzzes or flashes digital numbers is followed by my beloved elder saying, "OK, but I lost you after 'This is the 'on/off' button … ."
To not laugh when my beloved elder tells me she’s looking for her glasses, and I say, "They're right there on your nose," and her reply is, "I already looked there!"
To not scream at the top of my lungs when I find myself repeating for the third time, “Dad! Why aren’t you wearing your hearing aid?” and he says, "You don't have to yell!"
To always ask the opinion about the job I’m doing from my family experts who live 2,000 miles away — because they'll give it to me anyway.
To not walk away when my beloved elder tells me I’ve always been her favorite of all her children, then calls me by my sibling’s name.
Now, with tongue out of cheek, repeat after me, I do hereby resolve:
To remember no one will know I need caregiver relief if I do not ask for assistance.
To not feel guilty about taking much-needed relief.
To use my relief time to recharge and alleviate my two worst enemies: fatigue and stress.
To call Senior Connection at 800.510.2020 should I need to vent with someone facing similar challenges, or seek out a support group who can empathize and share what works for them.
Until then, I resolve that we all continue to think good thoughts.
— In honor of her late father, entertainment journalist, author, senior activist and Santa Barbara County resident Rona Barrett is the driving force behind the Golden Inn & Village, the area’s first affordable senior living and care facility, scheduled to begin construction in early 2015. Contact her at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.