A Story of Selflessness
This is a portion of a letter I wrote to a client who was caring for his aunt. Though he lives 40 minutes away, he’d been taking her to unplanned emergency room visits for months. He knew his aunt was no longer in a safe environment, but family members wanted her to stay at home. He was doing everything he could, plus a full time job, and being present for his family.
“I suspect you don’t begin to understand how much of yourself you’ve given, and that your family doesn’t grasp how much they owe you in gratitude. Then again, they can’t really understand it because they haven’t walked the walk you have.
It’s clear you’re still taking full responsibility for Anna’s care and life. That’s laudable, but not realistic. You’re afraid to make decisions because your family won’t be happy with you. Yet those same family members haven’t been sitting with her every Friday for therapy or addressing her difficult behaviors. Decisions are easier and more black and white when made in the sterile environment of our living room and not in the therapy room as someone’s yelling and being disruptive. When they’re ready to take their turn they become a stock holder and they get a vote.
Regarding Anna… it’s not reasonable to have her return to her home, and any family member that thinks that’s a good thing should have to be the one to get the first call when the next melt down happens. If family members legitimately aren’t able physically or mentally to handle this, then you need to let them know that though you know they love Anna and want what’s best for her, they owe you their support because you’re doing everything possible.
If I can help by talking with your parents or facilitating a family conversation, I’m willing to try.”
It can be incredibly difficult to recognize you’ve reached a crossroads when you’re so deeply committed to someone. Taking a step back, seeking a professional who can help you to regain perspective and understand options can be so important to both the caregiver and care recipient. I’d like to extend my profound admiration and respect to all caregivers.