By Carol Abaya,
Question: I quit
my job because I have to take care of both my mother and father-in-law.
Each live in a different area, about 20 minutes from each other and 20
minutes from us. I’m in the car every day running errands and making
sure they eat properly and take their medicines. I’m exhausted, frustrated
and angry. How can I regain my own life?
You need help! Help in doing the chores themselves and in setting
parameters of what you comfortably can do. Balancing life in your situation
certainly isn’t easy. But you need to put yourself on top of your priority
list. A few suggestions.
If your mother and
father-in-law like each other and get along, sharing one house can reduce
your driving time and the need for separate grocery shopping, etc. It
would also give the elders companionship. A three-bedroom, two bath house,
would allow each privacy.
Also, hiring someone
else to do basic chores will relieve you of the responsibility and constant
running. They can pool their financial resources to hire one person to
help both of them. Then you can return to work, especially if you really
For yourself, remember
that regular relaxation is critical to your own health.
Relaxation is not
escapist. It’s important you put yourself on the top of any to-do
- Take each day
and do at least one thing that you thoroughly enjoy - even if it’s just
sitting in a corner reading, doing a crossword puzzle or listening to
- Take deep abdominal
based breathes. Five minutes a day will help reduce stress.
- Watch what you
eat. If caffeine or sugar are “uppers” and keep you awake at night,
- Over scheduling
chores is not worth the stress. Get help!
- Skip the mental
replay of an incident or your situation. Thinking about things are
not going to change them. Shut the mental door!
- Low impact exercise
can be even better than aggressive activities. They help increase blood
circulation and also provide an atmosphere where your brain can “go
blank.” A great refresher.
- Quiet down your
environment. Turn off the radio and TV. Reduce the times you are surrounded
by people, movement, noise. A mall on a weekday can energize; on the
weekend, stay away.
- Meditation helps
you become more in tune with yourself.
- Call or write
a friend at least once a week. Go out for coffee, lunch, even
breakfast and think of “good” things to talk about.
Question: My father
recently passed away and my mother, 68, has latched on to me for everything.
In between getting my three children to school and my part-time work,
I run errands for her, handle her finances and doctors trips and now
have no time for myself. I’m stressed and snappy, and my husband is complaining
that he feels neglected. I can’t seem to find a balance.
mother is very young, so unless she has physical or health handicaps
she should be taking care of herself. My philosophy has always been “The
less one does for a parent, given true capabilities and help needs,
the better it is for everyone.”
Rather than do everything
for your mother, encourage her to do for herself. Teach her to do the
things she might not have done before - such as balancing the checkbook.
It’s hard for a person
to adjust after losing a spouse. But too often adult children destroy
their own lives by trying to make a parent happy and by setting up unrealistic
“help” schedules. You need to set parameters and limits as to what you’ll
You need to differentiate
between realistic and unrealistic demands. And certainly don’t feel guilty
if you say “no.”
Some more TIPS from
- Don’t let a parent
run your life.
- Don’t be afraid
of your parent. You are both adults.
- Try to understand
what it means to lose a loved one.
- Help your parent
appreciate what she can do for herself.
- Don’t feel guilty
about not doing everything.
- Give love freely.
- Be good to yourself.
Don’t let yourself become burned out.
Question: My mother,
76, moved in with us. She still drives and is making new friends at the
local senior center. We’re delighted about this. But she has a habit
of quizzing me as to what I’m going to do all day. I resent her checking
up on me all the time. Need advice.
of how old mother and child are there is always a tendency to be a mother,
to be concerned about that child (even if the child is 50 years old.
Don’t you keep track
of where your children are and what they do? You’re interested in their
activities and concerned about their well-being.
Such exchanges can
be described as loving -- as long as your mother doesn’t insist on going
with you all the time. They can be used to identify time in your busy
schedules so you both can enjoy a lunch out together. Do discuss your
feelings with her. Open communications is very important when several
generations live in the same house.
running myself ragged trying to keep my very ill mother, 80, my spouse
and two teenagers “happy.” No one seems to care about me. I’m ready
to walk out on it all. Help!
you do need help, and the only one who can really help is yourself. Stop
doing everything for everyone else. Learn to say “no” and to set parameters
as to what you will do. Do only what’s necessary, especially if other
members of the family can do for self and/or help you with your mother.
No one should be expected
to do everything for others and nothing for yourself. You do no one any
good and important relationships will wither. Do less of the not so enjoyable
chores and more of the things that give you pleasure. Sit down
and discuss your feelings and need for help with everyone.
Question: My father,
77, can no longer drive, go shopping or take care of his apartment properly.
My brother says I should have him move in with me. I’ve never had a good
relationship with my father, so don’t know what to do.
it may seem to be cruel or insensitive, my advice is not to have your
father move in with you and only do so as a last resort.
Seek ways of helping him remain in his own apartment or look at alternatives,
like senior apartment or assisted living.
That way he can still
control his daily life. Self control can help his own self-esteem, which
will be healthier.
All too often children
scoop an aging parent up and move him/her from a familiar to an unfamiliar
environment. The parent loses the feeling of being secure because of
the displacement. And no one is happy
In your case, placing
yourself in a potentially very stressful situation will be bad for both
of you and may create unsolvable problems as he becomes frailer.
many years of being estranged from my father, 69, he has moved to a town
nearby. My two sisters and brother live in the same area. Our mother
passed away two years ago. I am having difficulty in dealing with him
even though it seems he wants to take an active part in our family life.
of what happened in the past, your father is now reaching out to you to
re-establish a positive relationship.
Rehashing your own
negative feelings while growing up without him will not change the past
nor achieve anything positive.
An honest exchange
of feelings can be a starting point. You may learn things your mother
never told you. Understanding the past can often go a long way to better
relationships in the future.
Make believe you’re
meeting him for the first time. Get to know him as he is today. Give
your father a new chance in life.
This material is
copyrighted by Carol Abaya Associates and cannot be reproduced in any
manner, print, or electronically.