When an abusive parent becomes ill and requires end-of-life care, should you become their caregiver?

A Less than Ideal Relationship:

Choosing the Caregiver

By Dorothy Franks, MA

Published November 17th, 2017

A less-than-ideal relationship with a parent may be a heavily-guarded secret in the family. We all love each other and treat each other right. Of course we do. If you are the child of a family with less-than-ideal relationships, you may begin to wonder about some things after you become a parent yourself.

What does loving each other look like? What does it mean to treat each other right? Your questions may cause you to remember things from your childhood, and you may make an evaluation as an adult that is different from the story agreed upon all those years ago.

"Even if the rest of the family have decided that you will be the caregiver, you still have the right to make the final decision." Tweet

On the other hand, you may have always known you weren’t treated well by one or the other of your parents; and from an early age, you knew something was wrong. As you grew into adulthood, you asserted your right not to be with someone who treated you poorly, and you did not spend time with the parent who created grief for you.

In the first instance, you may doubt yourself and your memories; while in the second example, the doubt is not there. Either way, things may become difficult for you whenever the parent in question becomes elderly, sick, and in need of a caregiver. It may be taken for granted that you will fill this role. Will you?

Even if the rest of the family have decided that you will be the caregiver, you still have the right to make the final decision. In the best of situations, involving a healthy relationship, any decision is better if it is made with adequate information, so this information from The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Georgia, is being passed on to those who are considering their options and want to know what is involved in caregiving:

What is a family caregiver?

  • One who provides healthcare and assistance to others, usually as part of an ongoing relationship and as an expression of concern and love for a relative, friend or neighbor.

Does this definition fit you and your relationship with the person needing care?

What are the four categories of health situations that create the need for care?

  • Physical illnesses or disabilities

  • Mental illnesses

  • Developmental disabilities

  • Addictive diseases

Do you feel competent to care for someone with one or more of these health conditions?

The Institute describes the caregiving setting as being in:

It is sometimes a relief to know that caregiving may be done in a facility, with professionals providing the physical care and the family caregiver providing the oversight.

Family caregivers may spend a few hours a week with their family member, or they may have to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is directly related to where the caregiving is being done.

The Institute documents that people become caregivers for a variety of reasons:

  • There may be no one else to provide the care

  • They may have made a conscious choice to volunteer

  • The family may have identified the caregiver as the best choice for the job

  • The method and person selected may be the best alternative to other forms of care

Whatever your decision may be as to whether you will fill this role, it is useful to know that there may be many ways of doing the job; and the person who accepts the role should decide how he or she will do it.

Other helpful information might be examples of common roles for caregivers. The staff of the Institute say that common tasks for family caregivers include:

  • Emotional support, listening

  • Companionship

  • Physical care and hygiene

  • Financial assistance

  • Transportation

  • Advocacy

  • Housekeeping

  • Home management

Are these tasks compatible with your skills, energy, health conditions, and emotional status? Physical care, housekeeping, and home management may not be required of the family caregiver if care is provided in a facility. These tasks require considerable time and energy if caregiving is provided in the home of the caregiver or care receiver.

This article is intended to be of use to you in the beginning stages of decision making, and it contains simple data. You must factor in the emotional part of doing each of these tasks for someone with whom you have a conflicted relationship. There is no need for guilt on your part.

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About Dorothy Franks

Dorothy Franks possesses 40 years of experience as a counselor, social worker and schoolteacher. Ms. Franks served at St. Johns Hospital, Laureate Psychiatric Hospital and Clinic, St. Francis Hospital, and is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist in The Grief Recovery Method.

Dorothy Franks, MA

Grief Recovery Method® Specialist

Dorothy Franks possesses 40 years of experience as a counselor, social worker and schoolteacher. Ms. Franks served at St. Johns Hospital, Laureate Psychiatric Hospital and Clinic, St. Francis Hospital, and is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist in The Grief Recovery Method®.

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