Well-Meaning Advice

By Fran Marmor | January 3rd, 2017

A caregiver is torn between her instincts and her critics.

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DEAR FRAN, Do you ever wonder if you should listen to your gut or your critics? And what if your critics truly care? My 90-year-old mother lives with me and I am her caretaker. I am not a saint. I am a daughter who was loved by her mother and now wants to be there for her. Truth be told, I am paid to be her caretaker. I am less expensive than assisted living, and although my mother has some dementia, I can still be the assistance she needs. My dilemma: she would be happy to sit in the chair all day and doze, watch TV and not put any effort into moving her body. Her P.T. said she needs to do her exercises and her doctor said that if she doesn’t get outside and around people, her dementia will worsen rapidly and she will be more depressed than she is now. My brothers and friends tell me to stop pushing her. They say she is 90 years old and if she wants to relax all day, I should let her. I am not a drill sergeant, but I definitely push her to move and I take her out on some errands and on walks. I am so conflicted. My instinct tells me that they are wrong. I believe my mother would never have wanted to be left to languish. But perhaps my critics are right, and I should let her do what she wants to do, or rather, doesn’t want to do. Help! I love my mother and want to do right by her. – Lydia

DEAR LYDIA, You may not be a saint, but you are an amazing daughter! I understand the advice you are getting is coming from a loving place. People are probably concerned that you’ll get burned out by being such an active caregiver, and that perhaps your mother isn’t capable of what you are encouraging her to do. I think you need to trust your gut on this one. It sounds as if you’d be more stressed if you didn’t give your mother the care you so deeply believe she deserves. Her doctors and therapist seem to agree, and I imagine they have an immense amount of respect for you. I am reminded of a story of a man who visited his wife in memory care every day at 10 a.m. although she didn’t even know who he was. When asked why he did that, he responded, “She doesn’t know who I am, but I know who she is.” I think your bond with your mother allows you to know what is best for her. Please listen to that inner voice. – Fran

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