Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tip No. Nine: Find a Support System

What, you say? Isn't that what family is for, and you just told us to be artificially close to our siblings? This is different. This is part of the kit that you need for yourself - that and a compliment of movies where stuff goes boom. After a really frustrating day with loved ones, there's nothing like a good explosion. But, seriously, because for the most part I am being serious, what I mean is a series of connections who help you get through the chaos. I have one piece in place personally, which is I have friends who have been there for me.

It will be inevitable that, even if you are lucky enough to have family support and help with your parent(s), there will be a time you really want to smash their face in. I have seen it play out plenty of times before. For one thing, the situation is stressful. And then birth order will kick in. There is almost always a sibling, that by temperament or geography takes on the primary caregiver role. Then the others fall into various other parts in the play; maybe the passive, "I want to live my life for me" role, or the "when can I get the house" greedy role. But, whatever role you play, there will inevitably be conflict. And, trust me on this one, if you are still married at this point, taking care of an ill parent will strain the marriage. My husband and I have gone through hell and back in our marriage. We have participated in countless hours of therapy to pull us back together, but from the time of the accident until I was laid off we hit another low point. Initially very supportive, eventually he began pulling away. The reasons are complicated and probably could be a post all in and of themselves, but suffice it to say for now, we hit another low point in our marriage, and that left me even more all alone. Ironically, once the strain of juggling the job with everything else fell away, I must have relaxed in some way, and he came back around. But, I digress. The point to all of this is, you will need your own, your very own, group of people to bitch to. People who know and support you, who are there to listen to you, and can share their issues back at you so you can be reminded that you and your family are not the center of the universe, because that is a dangerous perception to fall into.

I'm lucky. I have great friends. Some of them I haven't seen face to face in years, but give me cyber-love. Others draw me out of the house from time-to-time. Some listen to what I have to say with an uncritical ear, others call me out on my b.s. They are all patient with me, because I get easily distracted with my own drama. I know lots of people who have a larger number of friends and acquaintances, but I'll pit the quality of my friends against anybody any day. But, for others, maybe a pastor or church support group would be helpful. You are less likely to be able to be a mean-spirited gossip that way, but maybe that's a good thing.

What I don't have per-se is a support group of individuals who have or are going through the same experience as me and can talk me through the pitfalls, give me practical guidance and resources, and let me know what I can expect going forward. Of course, some of my friends have elderly parents of their own, and we informally share our experiences with one another. But, if my friend Diane's mother lives in Dallas, we can't reciprocally help one another with doctors or social services, etc. So, Internet chats or blogs can probably take you just so far. I don't have that kind of support in place. And now that Mother is settled, it's not such a big deal, but earlier on I would have appreciated it. Major decisions had to be made at what seemed like lightning speed, and I had no real clue as to what I was doing. And, even now it would be nice to get some practical advice on the best way to navigate the waters of a parent who still wants to behave like they're the parent and I'm the child, but in fact needs the level of care of a toddler. Doing a Google search on senior care support, I can find lots of resources on finding facilities, etc. Searching Senior Support Groups in Austin, TX didn't really come up with anything much. I think it's harder to find, but if you can find one, I would recommend checking it out.

The main thing about all of this is not to do it alone. Surround yourself with support or you will not remain strong enough long enough to see your task through.

No comments:

Post a Comment