When was the last time you asked your aging parents to help you?
As a family caregiver you do everything within your means to be of service to the people you care for – you run errands; you cook and clean; you attend medical appointments. Caregiving tasks go on and on.
We caregivers have a strong desire to be useful within the family; but so do the people you care for. To boost feelings of worthiness and pride, offer opportunities for your parents to contribute back to the family — simple tasks like folding clothes, washing dishes, watering plants, pet sitting, baking cookies, and easy gardening tasks among others may be just what they need to contribute to the quality of your life, and the family overall.
We may also unknowingly be conditioning the people we care for to become helplessness, especially when they are perfectly capable of doing little things for themselves – like getting a glass of water, making a simple dinner (or popping it into the microwave) and getting up to retrieve reading glasses.
Mindlessly jumping up and doing the little things, and waiting on aging parents hand and foot makes your life more stressful than you may realize. My “Golden Rule” in family caregiving is this: never do for your aging parents what they can do for themselves.
Think for a moment about the many different things you are doing right now that your aging parents can easily accomplish on their own. Make a list of current tasks, starting with the small ones (such as getting them a glass of water). Next time your parent asks for something to drink, calmly and pleasantly say, “I am very comfortable in my chair right now, so please get the water yourself. I know you can do it.”
The first time your parent hears these words he or she may be shocked, and may even throw a tantrum. Again, as calmly as possible remind your parent that he or she is quite capable of accomplishing this easy task – repeat the words above.
Yes, saying these words, and not jumping out of your chair will feel awkward at first. What’s more, you are likely to feel guilty, even afraid; but gather the courage to do it just the same. Now is the time to end the process of doing too much, too soon. Remember, you do plenty of other things for them already.
Saying “no” gets easier over time. Slowly but surely your parents will begin to understand that there are limits to what you will and will not do for them on a moment-to-moment basis.
Who knows, accomplishing small tasks on their own may be just what your parents need to boost feeling good about themselves.