Simple Answers vs. Caregiving

Hands to Help When You Cannot

Every one of us who is doing or has done caregiving or who supports folks who do wishes the world of care was filled with easy answers. It ain’t.

I was recently reading an article from on the issue of “helping” elders versus “enabling” (used in a negative way) them. The argument is on-going in terms of how much we encourage seniors to do every thing they can, as opposed to performing tasks – Activities of Daily Living – for them.

Every time I hear or read about this topic, it takes me back to a conversation I had with my mother, well before my wife and I left the world of high technology to start Support For Home In-Home Care. Mom was in her early 80s at the time. She suffered from arthritis and Diabetes. Her cognitive powers were starting to show some issues. Dad, who was a couple of years older, was starting to take on more of a family caregiver role.

What sharpened my focus on their situation was a conversation in which Mom said, “I have been cooking for this family for over 60 years. I am tired of it. It is your father’s turn.” Ironically, it was Mom thinking that Dad could take over this responsibility that made it clear to me that there was a decline in judgment and cognition on Mom’s part. You see, dad could barbeque a great salmon and make split pea soup with walnuts. Beyond that, cooking was foreign territory for him. There was no way he could take on the responsibility for food preparation, even if he were as healthy as a (84 year old) horse.

At the same time, Mom’s complaint was, in my eyes, absolutely legitimate, even if she had been a heck of a lot healthier than she was. Cooking for over 60 years ought to be enough, even if she could still carry the load. If getting someone to take over that responsibility constituted “enabling” her, so be it. She deserved it.

Thus began the painful, resisted discussions about getting home care in place for Mom and Dad. Part of the motivation was what they could no longer effectively do. Part of it, frankly, was wanting them to be able to relax and enjoy the rest of their lives to the greatest extent possible.

So, I am not going to argue that this controversy – help versus enable – is a simple one, but I do admit to not seeing a great problem with a bit of coddling.

Your thoughts? Best wishes. Bert


One response to “Simple Answers vs. Caregiving

  1. A dictionary of terms sure would be helpful, but to your point, everyone is different. My Mom still doesn’t want any help and neither word is acceptable to her. I do recall how much she complained because my Dad wasn’t picking up her slack. Neither of them recognized their limits due to both of their cognitive states. Not sure why people get so focuses on the words — especially when we just crave that some part of this journey would be easier.


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