Every human is a different, unique individual and has a right to choose what they want to do in their life. Society often expects people to conform to certain roles and take on certain commitments without the emotional and physical stresses that they involve. Some people simply are not suited for and can’t be a caregiver for their elderly loved one. The impact that this responsibility has on an individual’s health, finances and private life is not to be underestimated. In this article, we will guide you through the steps you can take when you can’t be a caregiver.
Deciding not to be a primary caregiver does not make a person selfish. If you know that this commitment is not something that you want to take on, it is very important to talk to your family and help them find a new arrangement. Being a primary caregiver means that you have to be available each day, at any time to meet the elderly person’s needs, which is not something that we should expect from everyone. People who don’t have the patience or the nurturing capabilities that this commitment requires should not be considered selfish or ungrateful. No one should be criticized for admitting that they can’t be a caregiver.
Caregiving Is a Choice
Most people love their parents and care about their well-being; nevertheless, they decide that they can’t be a caregiver due to the fact that they are lacking time, resources, or maybe even characteristics to support this position long-term. When a person decides not to provide personal daily care to a loved one, it does not immediately mean that this person is abandoning them or has no concern for their health and happiness. Even those of us who don’t have a close relationship with our elderly relatives often take care of financial issues, visit them regularly, and help with the caregiving arrangements. Not everyone can give their 100 percent to another person, and that is alright. It is important to value those individuals who still try to contribute, even when they can’t be a caregiver full-time.
When Should You Say No?
Being a long-term caregiver requires patience, determination, and a certain set of characteristics that not all of us have. How do you decide whether or not you have what it takes to be a primary caregiver? How can you evaluate what degree of responsibility you can take on for your elderly loved one without burning out? It is important that you find answers to these questions before you agree to work you are not ready for.
Family and social expectations may make it difficult for a caregiver to say no to a full-time commitment. When a person considers themselves loving and kind, this may constitute further pressure to continue diligent care. Furthermore, there may be cultural and traditional norms involved that make it harder for a person to admit that they can’t be a caregiver.
In most cases, care for elderly people is provided by family members or people from their social circle. There are several components based on which the caregiver is usually chosen; it may be due to a close relationship with the elderly people in need, personal values of a person, or even just proximity between their place of residence. Whether you fit into the categories or not should not influence your ability to say no to full-time duties, when you feel like it is more than what you can take on.
I Do Not Want to Take Care of My Parents
There are several reasons why you may not wish to be your parents’ caregiver. Here are some issues that you may battle with when considering caregiving for your mother or father:
- When families disagree about how best to care for their elderly relatives, serious arguments and rifts in relationships may occur. You may be the one everyone else expects to be responsible and take on the role. Perhaps you’ve got siblings who are not willing to support you in the way that is necessary. Regardless, you can usually expect there to be a conflict within the family. It’s understandable that you may want to avoid this by contributing to your parents’ wellbeing in ways that are not everyday caregiving.
- Taking care of your parents will be a full-time job and you may not have the emotional or practical capacity to become a caregiver. In some cases, caring for your mother or father can require around-the-clock supervision and if you are someone with a job or your own family, it may actually be smarter to say no to this commitment.
- Most of us are unprepared for the role of a primary caregiver because it is an unpredictable and challenging job. You’ll have to learn a lot rather quickly. You’ll be the one responsible for administrating your Mom’s medication and you’ll have to cook and bring Dad his meals three times each day. It may not be realistic for you to assume several different roles and responsibilities. Caregiving should – more often than not – be a team effort instead.
- Finally, perhaps your relationship with your parents is not one that will benefit from you being their caregiver. Not everyone has the type of relationship with their Mom and Dad that can transition smoothly to the caregiving realm. In addition, your aging parents may actually feel uncomfortable relying on you or may make it more difficult on you to take control because they still consider themselves responsible for you instead.
Regardless of the reason, deciding not take care of your parents is valid. Do not be afraid to make decisions that benefit you and your mom and dad, whether or not they are seen as the “right decisions” by others.
How to Have the Conversation
Explaining to the family why you can’t be a caregiver to your elderly loved one may feel like a daunting task. In addition to this, some people may also have to fight with a sense of guilt and sadness. Due to this, we highly recommend that you approach this decision carefully and take a few steps to make the re-arrangement much easier for you and your family.
Look at your decision from a different angle
While it’s understandable that one might feel guilty denying their loved ones full-time care, this is not an all or nothing situation. You can also think of your decision as taking your share of responsibility in your own way. Every type of contribution counts and it may even be better to let your elderly loved one receive additional care that you are not able to provide. Trained professionals in assisted living communities can offer a highly professional approach and comprehensively meet the needs of the elderly. Therefore, if you can’t be a caregiver, remember that there are other ways to show your elderly loved one that you care for their well-being.
Take other family members into account
Re-arrangement of caregiving duties can initiate complex changes in the lives of other family members. Some of them may feel resentment or anger towards you for refusing the role of primary caregiver and feel like you are pushing your responsibilities on them. It is important to remind siblings or other relatives/friends of the most important task at hand: ensuring the safety and comfort of the elderly loved one. Taking care of an elderly loved one should not be the duty of a single family member. Your choice to say no to this commitment may be a chance for collaboration, which can bring all of you closer and create a new kind of understanding and respect in your family.
Use the right words
The language that you use during these discussions may change its outcome significantly. If you try to communicate your feelings clearly to your family members while being compassionate and caring, there is a much less chance that the discussion will turn into an argument. Calmly accepting anger and criticism and elaborating on additional ways to share the responsibilities could be key to re-adjusting smoothly without leaving behind unresolved issues. Using a language that makes your family members feel included is paramount. A few simple phrases can set the tone of the discussion; such as:
“I would love to hear your thoughts on figuring out the next steps”
“This concerns all of us”
“Do you have something to add?”
You may feel that you have done everything that you could do and that it is time for someone else to step in. There is nothing wrong with admitting your limits and asking for help. It is always great if there is someone who would gladly take over the responsibilities of being a primary caregiver, but this is not always the case. If the discussion is going nowhere, it would make sense to seek help from someone neutral, possibly a geriatric care manager, or family therapist, who has appropriate experience and training in resolving these types of issues. You should always keep in mind that there are third-party professional agencies who can recommend the best care facilities or in-house personnel. Sometimes, taking this approach may prove to be the best decision for the well-being of your senior.
What to Do Next
After you have made a decision to change the way you approach your caregiving duties, you might realize that the shared responsibility of you and your family members is not enough to provide appropriate care for your elderly loved one. If you can’t be a caregiver, you should look into alternative providers such as care homes and assisted living facilities. Many agencies have professionals who can take into account your family’s specific needs and give you detailed information about various senior living options. They can also help you reach out to your community and find assistance from people in your area.
You should never feel guilty for not meeting society’s or your family members’ expectations. When faced with a difficult decision, the only thing you can do is to just try your best. There are many ways to show your elderly loved ones that you care for their well-being. Even if you can’t be their caregiver, you can help other family members who are willing to take on the responsibility, or even arrange for third party assistance. Knowing your strengths and utilizing them to help your loved ones is all you need to make peace with the fact that you can’t be a caregiver.
Like every other relationship, caregiving is ever-changing and dynamic. There has to be an understanding and honesty between the caregiver and their elderly loved ones to overcome all of the challenges that may accompany aging. Each person should be able to set boundaries, limitations, and freely express when they need things to change. Such a relationship will ensure that the future inclusion of other caregivers will be a smooth process, avoiding any damage to the bond that the initial caregiver and the elderly loved one have.
- Trends and New Directions, Area Agencies on Aging Survey, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, https://www.n4a.org/files/AAA%202014%20Survey.pdf
- Research on Family Caregivers: Understanding Levels of Burden and How to Provide Assistance, Annette Curtino and Judy Santamaria, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23736166/
- A Qualitative Study of Caregivers’ Experiences, Motivations and Challenges Using a Web-Based Mindfulness Intervention, Sigrid Stjernsward and Lars Hansson, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10597-019-00477-7
- What Knowledge and Skills Do Caregivers Need?, Barbara Giver and Paula R. Sherwood, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.5175/JSWE.2008.773247703?journalCode=uswe20