dgrey63 Asked November 2011

Is it possible for me to be a good caregiver when I do not like the person I am caring for?

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I strongly dislike my father-in-law and I suspect my husband knows this, although I have not discussed this with him. I have really struggled with this and am begining to get a bit depressed. I feel guilty and angry at the same time.
To say he is difficult would be an understatement. There are so many familial issues that leave me menatlly burned out: alcoholism, abuse to my husband's mother ( she is deceased ), infidelity, etc.. His lack of hygiene is deplorable and he has terrible manners.
I know I complain too much to my husband about all of this, and he I suspect is becoming burned out by this. But, honestly, when I catch the man spitting in the kitchen sink one more time, for example, I think I will lose it.
My main concern is the future. He is still mobile, can drive, and seems to have no signs of dementia. But, he will get worse, as he has emphysema and copd, as well as alcoholism. I really don't think I will be able to do this. Any suggestions? Thanks

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russkm Nov 2011
Lilliput and Bertcave: Both of your responses were helpful. Note that I didn't get any indication that Bert was advertising any type of services..that was a bit unfair to accuse him of that. I, too, care for my own parent and we have never seen eye to eye my whole life. I'm very conflicted. I find myself walking away and screaming into a pillow many times.

All of these posts were extremely helpful. I feel a little bit better about my own situation now that I know there are others like me out there! Thanks to all.
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The question you asked is one that I as a bedside hospice volunteer for eight years have had occasion to answer often. Although I always have had the choice whether to accept an assignment, or end one, I have withdrawn, regardless of my dislike.

I've always stayed, not because I'm Mother Teresa, but rather because when those feelings of dislike occur, I ask myself two questions:

Is the dislike I'm experiencing come from my needs not being met? When I answer yes, I remember dying is not about me and that chronic and terminal issues often strip away the personality of someone, changing them into a person they might not even like.

The second question is "Am I moving away from this person, because what I'm experiencing is related to things I fear?" When I answer yes, I know it's the right decision to stay.

Feeling displeasure, annoyance, or even anger towards a person being cared for is normal. The question to ask yourself, is why? And even more importantly, once you understand that feeling, will you run away from it or embrace it?

My last article on this topic was printed in Buddhadharma, a magazine for Buddhists. http://stangoldbergwriter.com/about/how-can-i-be-a-compassionate-caregiver/. The question I raised there was is it possible for caregivers to be compassionate to people who don't share their views, or are even despicable. It's a question that is universal, regardless of a person's spirituality.

The answer is "not always." But where compassion isn't possible, understanding is.
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toadballet1 Nov 2011
Susan: that is such a great story about how you worked things out with your Mom. It takes two reasonable people who are willing to meet halfway. Good for you that you made it work.

Rebecca: My hub, too, has an easier time dealing with Mom’s antics than I do. He also loves her as much as I do, but has that distance that comes from not being directly related to someone.

momag: sometimes members post additional information on their “walls.” It is optional, but really does help us respond more completely.

Bertcave: this is a forum primarily for family caregivers, not for professional caregiving companies to advertise their services under the guise of posting a response. I believe there is a way to contact the site director if you wish to advertise. Please be respectful of the parameters of this forum.

I agree with all above about boundaries and not becoming a doormat. This has to start with you.
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Aune Nov 2011
I think there is a little more to this issue than just having a talk with your husband about your feelings for his father. Alcoholics & children of alcoholics have a unique way of looking at their world & their own family problems. It is easy, they simply don't talk about them & therefore they don't exist. It is like having an elephant in the room & nobody wants to talk about it, they pretend it is not there, just move around it & hope it doesn't step on them. That elephant can become really big. If you point out the elephant or are shocked by it, you are the one with the problem because you are causing strife and discord in the family. But It is in reality a false sense of security & a false sense of peace. And there is not a whole lot of joy & comfort, & stability in putting your hope & trust in something that is fake. hoping by some miracle it is all going to turn out ok. It is like waiting for the time-bomb to explode & hoping it won'[t.

Bear in mind these are people with walls up not bombs. And they put on their pants in the morning one leg at a time just like you & I do. You are going to have to be the strong one with courage & love since the men have checked out. In general, most people do well when boundaries are set in place. It gives them a somewhat normal shere to function in and they are relieved that someone has set boundaries even if they whine a bit. You are going to have to set personal boundaries because It doesn't sound like your husand is going to be supportive of you at all. He wants to be the hero of taking care of dad but wants you to do all the work. I don't think you signed up to be a martyr or a silent partner. It would not be surprising at all to find that he expects to you act just as his mother did to dad's inappropriate behavior. After all, I can assure you that dad's drinking, infidelity, abuse etc was all mom's fault & his son has heard that for years. And at some level he believes it. You have a very valid reason for not liking the man and his disrespect for everyone & everything. That is a difficult but not impossible place for you to be in.

I don't know what your spiritual beliefs are but I can tell you God did not create you to be a doormat for anyone. He gave you gifts & talents & a purpose & I don't believe those gifts and your love are to be trampled under pigs feet. But, you are the one who has to care about your well-being & decide that. Caregivers often tend to neglect their own needs while dealing with others. You are dealing with some big issues and I would suggest you seek counseling & education on what you are dealing with.

There are many options within your community & I encourage you to reach out for help. Your complaint & fears are legitimate & a third party can help sooth the troubled waters & bring some light into a darkened world. I would not suggest going this alone especially since you are becoming depressed & angry already. You don't want or need to become a victim here. There is no shame in asking for help but rather encouraged that people reach out for help these day. There is wisdom in that. We are not meant to be islands unto ourselves but a community of real people who can be both givers & receievers.

I assure you that you are not alone. We all go through periods of learning new things, stretching our faith, and facing difficult challenges & we all need individual & family help & healing at times. There is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel for all of you. Best wishes to you and keep us posted of your incredible journey. It will be a help & encouragement to others.
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mommag Nov 2011
In your initial post, I do not see where you tell us that you live in your FIL's home. How does Eddie know all those details? Regardless, if you stay in this situation, you will burn out and hate your husband too. You do not deserve to be treated like a doormat and you need to tell everyone how you feel and what you will and will not put up with. You do not mention any children. If you do not have any children and have somewhere to go (friends, relatives), I would go away for a while. Tell everyone in advance so they can plan for your absence. Do not put up with your FIL's crap or your husband's lack of interest in your suffering...you know the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
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My husband never really cared for my father but was a wonderful caregiver. I think his emotional distance helped him cope with some of the tougher times. He still stood and cried with me as the two of us watch him die quietly. However, he validated my feelings when I felt that it was time to honor Dad's requests to let him go. So, pick two things that drive you crazy and deal with those first. They may be the same things that your husband dreads to see. It helped when my husband and I became a team and did not complain expecting the other one to fix it. Instead, we tried to fix it together. I hope things get better. Rebecca
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moonchild Nov 2011
Personally I knew I couldn't do this. My mother emotionally, and sometimes physically abused me as a child. She has always been very neurotic, but even more so in her old age, and her hypochondria drives me up the wall. She does nothing but criticize everything I do for her. The very best thing I could do was to place her in a board and care home. I am very grateful that my apartment is too tiny for us to even consider taking her in. And even though my sister has been the favored child since before birth, she doesn't want to have to take care of my mother either. Mother drives Everyone insane. Thank God for board and care homes!
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SusanMorse Nov 2011
I was REALLY mad at my mother when she started needing my help. We get along great now, and our story seems miraculous. I think she would agree with me that the answer for us was boundaries. We both figured out what our limits were and stuck firmly to them, and once we had that sorted out, somehow, amazingly, we found all the little things we liked about each other. I hope this happens for you, and I definitely agree the more calm communication you can have with everyone concerned, the better.
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Nataly1 Nov 2011
@dgray63- To answer your question-Strong dislike and resentment does not a good caregiver make.
You need to ask your self what it is that you want? What were your expectations when you moved in? What is it going to take for you to get past your strong dislike and move on? Be honest with yourself. As caregivers we often walk into a situation without thinking through this stuff- it's like getting caught up in planning a wedding and then get hit with the reality of marriage. For what ever reason you and your husband decided to make the move- and it sounds as if you had the best intentions- maybe it's time to reevaluate the situation.
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bertcave Nov 2011
This question actually prompted me to THINK and to post in my own blog, this morning. Thank you:

There was a Tweet this morning that basically asked that question, “Can a caregiver take care of someone they do not like?” My first response was, “Duh!” As a company that provides home care, almost all of Support For Home’s clients are wonderful people, but once in a while there is some one who is hard to love.

However, it does not matter whether I am a sweet person or not. What matters is that I need help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs and Instrumental ADLs). Professional caregivers / Home Care Aides are going to take care of me and provide the support I need — at least the ones who work for Support For Home. So, my first response was, as I intimated above, “Of course they can!”

As a home care / elder care company, we do not tolerate abuse of our employees, physical or otherwise, and we have fired clients a number of times. Our great Home Care Aides are as precious to our extended family as our clients are. But, short of actual abuse, we know our employees are capable of delivering great, professional care.

Then I thought about it some more. The question is not really about professional caregivers. The issue really needs to be addressed to family caregivers. Why is that? It is very simple. The roles and expectations and dynamics are very, very different for a family caregiver, from those for a professional Home Care Aide.

Being a family caregiver is the hardest job in the world. The relationship between the caregiver and the recipient of care is an emotional one, not a professional one. The layer of “services” are added on top of the pre-existing emotional relationship. There is often another layer, which is the larger family dynamic, involving additional relatives. The bottom line is that there are many pulls and tensions, just by definition, for the family caregiver, that do not exist for the professional.

If the emotional relationship is not a good one before the family caregiver responsibility is added, the family caregiver — and probably the recipient, as well — is probably going to be miserable. So, if this is the situation that you or a loved one is facing, look for a great home care agency in your area to help.

Best wishes, Bert
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