It was an editorial in Time Magazine back in 2010 that brought up the concept of the “coping conundrum.” They said: “There is guilt and mystery and anger and fear embedded in a process driven by love”. They were talking about the notion we as a society seem to have it that as our parents grow older and more dependent that it is almost a reverse child-rearing syndrome that the sandwich generation experiences. We “raise our parents?” Not so, they warned.
So, let’s look at ourselves just a bit. With teens, we can (try to) tell them what they can and cannot wear, what they can and cannot do. We can dictate their hours, and when they do not get the keys to the car until they get the hours of driving logged. So how does that work when you talk to the parent who gave you the keys…maybe grudgingly… and you are proposing to take the keys away from their 60-70 years of driving experience. It is not access to a car; it is a habit, it is independence; it defines life in the suburbs; it is part of the “American dream.”
And there was Maria Shriver’s report that came out in 2010 that essentially said that 10 million women would either care for an Alzheimer’s parent or have the condition themselves. Caregiving is a big deal, because it is as much about our parents as it is about ourselves. This is the part where we all go look up conundrum in the dictionary. The number of Alzheimer’s patients is going to triple over the next four decades. How would we want to be treated? So, it gets interesting. We all are living longer which means that those of us who are predisposed to conditions like Alzheimer’s are more likely to manifest the symptoms.
Back to the analogy of “raising” kids. We do not raise our parents, and we ourselves do not want to be viewed as children of our own children. Yet, the end game is about diminishing capacities of our older family members. Are we “lowering” our parents…hopefully very gently? …versus raising children?
So, now comes the coping advice. Rule number one for all of you who are caregivers is that you need to take care of the caregiver. Here is the subordinate rule. Find help in caring for the caregiver. And please know that what geriatric care managers (GCMs) do is support rule number two as well as rule number one. Yes, we assess, plan and execute to help the older loved one or other person with special needs. But every bit as important, GCMs help to care for caregivers. Remember that with every conundrum, there also is either an answer or perhaps even a cure.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.