Caring for Our Parents

… a Sandwich Generationer's perspective

Do Unto Others

In my last entry I re-blogged a great post from a wonderful blogger.  Kathy does a great job of talking about letting parents make decisions for as long as they can if safety is not a concern.

Of course, you know me well enough by now to realize that, while her ideas are very reasonable, logical and respectful, my own convoluted mind is incapable of just accepting them at face value.  I have to complicate things.

I had to ask myself whether safety is really ‘the line’ before I feel like I need to step in.  Should I let them make all the decisions until their safety is at risk?  What am I comfortable with? For example, am I okay if my mom decides to write a check to the Church for all her money? Technically she would still be safe but she would create a significantly negative situation for herself and others (she’d have to move in with one of us!).  No… definitely not okay with that one…

Yet, when they were both healthy, I often told them both to do whatever they wanted.  They could have decided to do a world tour to all the places they’ve never been to and always hoped to go.  They could have ended up spending all their money doing that.  Would I have been okay with that? I want to say I would have been but I honestly don’t know…

I realize these are extreme examples but you get the point… slippery slope… where is the line?  Does the line change when it’s approached from a positive angle versus a negative one? Is it easier to deal with the negative impact on me if they were having fun versus being sick?  Probably but it still doesn’t seem right to me…

I remembered talking to my counselor a while back about this very topic (see “Let Them Be”).  She challenged me to really think through the implications of what I shared in my blog (or Kathy shared in hers) and where a “healthy line” would be for me.  She pushed me on being assertive based on endless need to always please them, even at my own detriment.  Specially because not only am I not good about prioritizing my needs but neither have my parents.  They have always been… how would I say it?… free spirits?… rule breakers?… done as they pleased?…well, they’ve really always done what they thought was best, with great intentions mind you, but not always slowing down enough to think through the implications of their actions nor listen to the perspective of those impacted by them.  (No, it’s not an auditory problem as much as a processing, denial problem. Although when they’re watching TV you could swear they both needed hearing aids.) But I digress… back to the counselor.  She encouraged me to draw the line at a place that’s a bit ‘safer’ for my own well-being.  Afterall, I started to seek her counsel (read… I was at the end of my rope!) when I continuously found myself picking up their pieces for them.  Yes, I know… I took it upon myself to be the one who always picked up the pieces and I’m trying to work on that too.  (see “…but I have to make sure they are happy!”).  But this is exactly why placing this provervial ‘line’ in the right place is not as simple as it first seems (is anything ever really that simple?).

Personally, I’ve arrived at what works for me.  Since my parents (as a unit) are still competent and capable and they are not willing to have anyone else make decisions for them, I’m on-board with letting them be decision-makers as long as their safety is not at risk.  Once I feel we’ve reached that point, I will step in and take over.  Nevertheless, I too have a decision to make.  As long as they are the decision-makers, I will not be their ‘solution’.  Whenever I get the dreaded call or email saying it’s time for cleanup, I will reinforce how much I love them and wish them all the best in their cleanup process.

A year ago, I would have said that I would always be there for them, in whatever way they wanted or needed.  Today, I admit I’m a bit more discerning (cautious?) and I’m getting better at saying ‘No’.

The trick is to respect their dignity as they age, while not losing mine as I age.


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One thought on “Do Unto Others

  1. Exactly! You totally got the spirit of my blog. It isn’t easy! Everybody needs to identify their boundries for themselves at some level. You have a right to your own happy life which, unless you wish it, should not be consumed entirely by your parent’s lives! Sometimes when we can’t actually step in and take over, we may need to have a respectful discussion with our parents about the ramifications of their actions (I’m thinking of your example of giving their money away)……Ahhh, nobody said this would be easy!

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