At Support For Home, we work with a lot of home care clients and their families, including many family caregivers. Family caregivers are incredible people, in general. Their commitment to the person for whom they are providing care is amazing. The time and energy they devote and the sacrifices they make are inspiring, often awe inspiring.
Too often, however, there are prices that are paid for such care and devotion, and those prices can be paid by the person receiving care, as well as the family caregiver.
The prices I am talking about involve damage to the relationship — husband and wife, mother and daughter or son, grandfather and grandchild. As a home care company, we have seen it too many times, and it is a terrible, sad thing.
The sacrifices of family caregivers, in terms of time, energy, careers, hobbies, social activities, … are well known. They can be painful, and not all family members are capable of making those sacrifices. Honestly, I do not know my own limits, but I do not feel in the same league as many of these daughters, spouses, sons and others who step forward.
As we work with families and home care clients, however, we too often see the greater sacrifice — almost always unconscious. That sacrifice involves the relationship, itself. When a daughter steps into a caregiving role for her mother, for example, there is an inevitable change in the dynamic of the relationship between the two people.
I have not seen any formal studies of the stages of evolution of the relationships between caregiver and receiver — if any reader has, please do pass it forward. If it has not been studied, academically, it certainly should be. What I / we have seen, however, is too many instances where the child/parent or spousal relationship has diminished way too much, shrouded by the caring — but very, very different — relationship of caregiver and recipient. Too often, there is a certain brusqueness, a reduction of respect that creeps into the “new” relationship.
One of our goals, at Support For Home — and I know we share it with other principled home care agencies — is to protect the family relationship. Adequate respite care is critical to keeping a daughter seeing the elder as “Dad” and vice versa. It is that relationship that created the caregiving role in the first place, but it should not end up being submerged by that new role. Find ways to keep the original relationship alive — including getting enough help!
Best wishes. Bert