Breaking codependency when caregiving.


At a therapist's suggestion, I started attending Codependents Anonymous (CODA) meetings last year and have learned SO much about my own behaviors and the dangers of enmeshment with my father.

As I've grown, I've started learning how to set small boundaries, and boy, he doesn't like it. It's really hard for me because I don't want to be a "bad daughter", but I'm learning that Dad's tantrums are just that, and I don't need to run in and rescue him, especially when he can use the very expensive AL resources.

His latest melt down involves the AL changing the seating in the dining room. I just learned that Dad has "gone hungry" a couple of days because he won't open his mouth and say what he needs. With the new seating arrangement, Dad couldn't find his normal lunch / dinner buddies (they also changed the meal times). He can't see very far, so I can see how it's difficult, BUT after that incident, he just decided to take lunch in his room.

He complains of being lonely, but refuses to leave his room sometimes. There was also a new staff member that wasn't aware that Dad doesn't like chicken, so she mistakenly brought him a lunch dish with chicken. Instead of him asking for something different, he didn't eat that day and decided that he wouldn't have lunch at all.

I'm on the fence about what to do next. Of course, he asked me to bring him some food, since "I know what he likes," but that would be feeding the beast.

I am willing, however, to email the nursing director and ask her to remind her staff that Dad doesn't like chicken and maybe see if they can have his old lunch buddies knock on the door and go to lunch with him so they can find a new table together.

Other than that, I don't really think it's needed to do much more. Of course, he gave me an ear full when I told him I couldn't bring him food, and that he could tell the staff what he needed on his own, but he's afraid he'll "get into trouble".

Hah! Now I see why I have always had trouble asking for what I need. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, I guess.

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Very good insights here, especially as to the day to day interaction, which often becomes so ingrained that it's difficult to step back and analyze it.

I will say there is one concern that could be affecting reluctance to interact with and address problems with staff: hearing deficits. I think elders get used to having family talk louder b/c of hearing issues, but oftentimes staff don't understand and misinterpret as noncommunicative behavior. And sometimes the older person is reluctant to admit that he or she can't hear well, if at all.

Thank you for sharing Tinyblu. When we are in the trenches each day, I think its hard to think why am I so angry? Why are you driving me so crazy? I have never been good at setting boundaries. I don't know what it is in my DNA or personality that needs to be the "good" daughter as it were. God forbid anyone would not like me. I have to say its a difficult pattern of behaviour for me to change. But I hope I am slowly learning to have better boundaries, to speak my own mind and to advocate for my own needs.

Brilliant description, Tinyblu - rang so many bells with me! Poor dad to feel that horrible, nameless dread of interacting with "outsiders"; but good for you, and I wish I'd got to grips with it myself, for learning to lead him gently to better ways.

Tiny, good for you for making changes!

Your dad sounds very " old school"-- my mom was too. When I became assertive with her docs during a hospital stay once, she wept in fear that she'd be labelled a 
"difficult patient" and denied care. Ah, the good old days.

If I recall, YOU are working yourself ragged paying for at least part of dad's AL. Be demanding on his behalf! Explain to them that he won't speak up for himself. But DON'T provide services that you're already paying for.

When my mom was in Independent Living and she'd call me or my brother to change light bulbs or get rid of ants we'd say, "mom, you have staff to do that. Call them". She'd hem and haw and I told her, "for $5000 a month, they BETTER be changing your light bulbs!" That got her attention!

Thanks for sharing this. I hope this thread sparks a lot of discussion about this important topic!

That "get in trouble" comment sounds so familiar. My father was complaining about things at AL and when I offered to investigate he told me not to as he didn't want to get in trouble. I realize all he wants to do is complain and he doesn't want me to fix it because he'd have nothing to complain about.

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