For a time, a long time, during my Dad’s illness I felt this immense pressure to be his savior. Perhaps I couldn’t save his life, but I could protect him from the “horrible” realities of the end-of-life journey. It became my duty if not my responsibility, so I felt, to unburden him from any task that would weigh on him or cause him sorrow.
Only I could do this. It was my time to rise to the challenge. Once and for all, I would be the person who I always thought he wanted me to be. And it was my final chance to do so.
The thing is, my Dad didn’t want this of me. He wanted me to be myself and he didn’t want our relationship dynamic to change.
But did I ever feel the pull to be that savior and it mostly manifested itself with my stepping into a “parental role” for him. How easy it would be to mother my dying loved one like I would my sick child. After all, I was a mother so the role was familiar and I found myself telling him to ‘drink 96 ounces of water…make sure you walk around the neighborhood…don’t forget your blanket for chemo….’
It took my Dad telling me that I had become a “royal pain in the ass” before I wised up. Perhaps I’d gone a bit overboard setting up his iPad to alert him when he needed to take certain pills or drink water. Dad didn’t know how to disable the alarms and he hated water. He’d do an impersonation of W.C. Fields (google W.C. Fields quotes on water to better understand) and yet I’d still chastise him for not drinking enough.
Mother knew best, right? Mother was in control.
But I wasn’t his mother and he wanted me to stay his daughter. The forty-something daughter whose strengths and weaknesses he knew better than I did.
During the course of his illness, there were many situations in which I was asked to step into a different, unfamiliar or uncomfortable role. Most often these situations arose quickly and I was unprepared – which the Caregiven app has been designed to alleviate.
Yet these will always occur because no one is ever truly prepared to be a care partner to someone they love.
We are also not prepared to be someone we are not. We are not our loved ones’ parent. We may also not be their financial advisor, lawyer, spiritual advisor, etc. In my situation, we were never forced into these roles as Dad’s independence of mind and body wasn’t affected by his illness. Many of you, however, are in a different place. The Family Caregiver Alliance has wonderful resources including this article titled Parenting Your Elderly Parents.
In an upcoming message, I will talk about the different roles care partners assume and the importance of creating a caregiving team who have strengths in these areas. But for now, I want to leave you with a reminder that as much as we wish it weren’t so, we can’t save our loved one no matter what role we take on or ideal we try to live up to.
Be the person you are, the person your loved one knows and cherishes.
This is important because the time you have left with your loved one is precious – don’t alter your relationship to be something you’re not. And as my next blog suggests, don’t expect others to change either.