Detachment is a challenge.
More so as a family caregiver than as a medical professional. When I worked in home health care as a certified nurse’s assistant it was much easier to be detached emotionally from a patient with whom I did not have another relationship. As a caregiver to my dad, it’s an entirely different story. Even though I have been out of the house for more than half my life, that family dynamic thing starts up within days of being together again. What is “that family dynamic”? It’s the whole back and forth of when you were growing up. I can’t speak for persons who were abused as children. That’s not what this is about. But it’s like the thing that happens when siblings get together. And when I get together with my parents. When my mom was dying, we were just renewing and healing our relationship. I felt like we finally became friends. With my dad, he has dementia, whereas my mom was sharp as a tack until she could no longer take her insulin and needed morphine for her pain.
Old habits die hard.
My dad loved to push my buttons to get a reaction out of me. To see just how much I could take. I suppose to toughen me up. What does it mean “push my buttons”? It means to antagonize and passive-aggressively taunt a person even when you can see that they are uncomfortable or upset. And then act as if you have no idea why they are so upset. It is passive-aggressive bullying. And don’t get me wrong, I love my dad and consider it a privilege to be able to take care of him at this point. But I’m just saying there’s that father-daughter friction there where we just kind of fall back into the relationship of my childhood. No matter how many years I have spent in self-help and therapy and trying to change my reactions into choosing my actions. I have to constantly remind myself not to waste my time placing blame. But to assess and own my part in the situation and work on my own behaviors.
To stop reacting and choose my actions.
We learn so much when we come home and take care of our parents. It is uncomfortable and sometimes painful. But I am confident that going through these occasional trials will help me to become a better person. And I am grateful that dad puts up with me in the meantime. And wait a minute I also put up with him, don’t I?
Self-Care for Caregivers
I want to take a quick minute to plug my friend’s book Self-care for Caregivers by Jennifer Sermabeikian. It is a 60-day accountability journal with excellent practices and suggestions for taking care of yourself no matter what kind of caregiver you are. And also to give her a shout-out for inspiring me to share a little bit of my caregiving journey as encouragement and help for anyone who feels like maybe they’re not doing a very good job. It’s hard work and you are doing the best you can. For lots of inspiration and edification also check out Jenn’s YouTube channel Living Jen.