Jan. 20, 2019
Each of us is unique, with our own talents and flaws. Often, our so-called faults are merely ways in which we differ from society’s ever-changing expectations.
For example, it used to be a given that married couples would have children if possible. Currently, a significant number of couples choose to be childfree. Are they selfish? No. They simply know what they want out of their lives and understand that being parents probably isn’t the best choice for them or their potential children.
Similarly, some people have the insight to recognize that they wouldn’t be able to provide daily hands-on care for a beloved parent. They may have spent decades building careers that they love, with the support and encouragement of the parents who now need care. They may be people to whom patience does not come naturally or abundantly. Perhaps nurturing is simply not their strong suit.
Do these qualities make them bad people? No. Selfish people? Again, no.
Most individuals who choose not to be primary caregivers simply don’t have the characteristics, time or resources needed to sustain the daily provision of long-term care for a vulnerable adult. It’s likely that these people truly love their parents, and even if they don’t have a solid relationship, they at least feel moral concern for their wellbeing.
Just because someone decides against personally providing total care to a loved one doesn’t necessarily constitute indifference or abandonment. Many will visit, arrange other sources of care, handle financial issues, monitor their parents’ wellbeing and advocate for them. In actuality, they are providing care, even though they are not 100 percent involved.
People who are “forced” to become caregivers against their natural instincts may do okay for a while, and sometimes that’s all that is needed. But, caregiving often has a way of evolving into a long-term commitment that gradually becomes more intense. In these cases, there is a significant chance that day-to-day caregiving will backfire for these families. The caregivers might eventually resent their role and could come to resent their parents’ neediness as well.
Resentment is a powerful emotion and a key ingredient in caregiver burnout. It eats at the heart of the person carrying the grudge. It builds until it takes on a life of its own, so that even the most talented actor can’t hide their underlying feelings from their care receiver. Resentment reveals itself in body language. It comes out in one’s tone of voice. And, yes, in extreme cases, it can rear its ugly head in the form of neglect or abuse.
If you are one of these people who has an inkling that you aren’t cut out to be a hands-on caregiver, you are to be commended. Few people have the ability to take an honest look at themselves and refuse to compromise who they are no matter how much they may want to.
It is worth mentioning, though, that some people are too hard on themselves. The term “caregiver” means many different things to different people. In fact, some people don’t even identify as caregivers even though they alone manage and provide all aspects of a loved one’s care.