By Kristine Dwyer, LSW, Staff Writer
Caregiving can begin with a momentís notice, as Beth discovered.
Her elderly mother, widowed and living
independently in the Midwest, had suffered a
disabling stroke. Beth, the youngest of six
children, willingly responded since she lived
closer than her siblings did and felt capable of
providing help. Once the health crisis
stabilized, Beth moved her mother four hundred
miles across the state and into her home with
her husband and two preschool-age children. This
is where she began her journey as a caregiver.
Initially, Beth felt confident about her new role as a caregiver
for her mother. She wanted to offer the same
love and support that her mother had given to
her over the years. She optimistically assumed
her mother would get well in a short time, would
return home and continue living independently.
All intentions were good and it seemed
everything was going in the right direction. She
hadnít anticipated, however, the possibility of
a second small stroke and pneumonia, the stress
on herself, and her family or her motherís need
for on-going medical care and rehabilitation.
Financial and legal issues were also unclear as
Beth attempted to manage her motherís affairs.
Weeks turned to months and Beth and her family
found themselves facing new and unexpected
As time went on, Beth now felt an uncertainty about her role as a
caregiver. She noticed changes in her motherís
memory, patience and daily moods. She also
showed signs of depression and strongly missed
her own home, church and social life amongst
friends. It became clear that her mother was not
happy living with her and coping with her
familyís busy and often hectic schedule. Beth
began to lose patience and noticed the effects
on her own health, marriage, and ability to
parent two young children.
The choice of providing care for her mother was also taking an
emotional toll on the mother/daughter
relationship. An unfamiliar role emerged as Beth
found herself ďparentingĒ her own mother and she
felt very unsettled with her feelings. In
addition, her mother faced the uncertainty of
her own role in her daughterís household as it
related to meals, kitchen duties and daily
decisions. They were both caught in a struggle
they were not prepared for as adults.
Six months of caregiving finally gave way to a difficult reality as
Beth questioned whether she could continue to
make sacrifices and care for her mother in her
home. She began to struggle between her feelings
of guilt, resentment and what was best for her
mother, her own family, marriage and needs as a
mother and young woman. She realized the life
she once knew was slipping away and the time had
come to reevaluate everyoneís needs.