What to Do When Your Best Efforts Aren’t Good Enough

My neighbor George is not a daughter but he’s certainly part of the daughterhood. You see, until a year ago, he spent most of his time taking care of his parents in the home they shared.

Now, from my perspective, he was the best kind of son any parents could hope to have and he fully embodied the spirit of honoring your mother and father.

But from his perspective, he was constantly failing.

Once he relayed a story to me about how he was in the kitchen one night making dinner for his parents – both bed bound in different rooms upstairs. As he’s running the food trays up and down the stairs, as he did for every meal, suddenly his mother calls out, “Come sit with me.”

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4 Things You Can Do to Make Caregiving Less Tedious

I once had a therapist tell me that I had “the most disordered thinking” of anyone he had ever seen. In light of this diagnosis, I probably deserve a gold medal for getting out of bed most mornings.

My secret to staying semi-sane is to keep really, really busy and to surround myself with lots of people. For someone like me, being bored is deadly.

And, I am going to admit something that I think maybe none of us would say out loud. I find that taking care of other people, whether they are 2 or 102, can often be really boring. I mean, reaalllllyyy TEDIOUS.

I am, for example, not particularly tolerant of caregiving situations that require me to demonstrate a lot of physical strength while being screamed at, and then to have to repeat the whole thing over and over again. I am pretty sure that wrestling a tantruming 2 year old into a car seat looks very similar to some of the exercises they do at Army ranger training.

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5 Lessons in Setting Boundaries that Every Caregiver Must Learn

It seems like I’ve been exhausted for 20 years. In just the last few months I’ve been waking up to the realization that this fatigue is the direct result of much-too-loose personal and professional boundaries. I’ve spent so much time and energy in my life doing things that I can’t or don’t want to do –that I am just plain tired.

There’s an epidemic of “can’t say no” among the women I know.  But, I think it’s especially difficult for daughters – to say no to a parent who wants to move in, to say no to unreasonable requests from siblings or paid caregivers, or to bow out of community obligations that are just too much on top of caregiving demands.

As a caregiver, it’s essential that you become an expert in setting boundaries. Boundaries are the flip side of asking for help. And if you can do both… if you can learn to say, “No” and “I need your help,” you might just survive this experience.

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Your Parent’s Death: Facing Fear and Finding Meaning

In my next life, I want to come back as Dr. Kathy Selvaggi, the palliative care doctor who appears in a new Frontline documentary series about how our health-care system handles end-of-life care. I think we should all idolize clinicians who escort people to and from life — midwives, labor and delivery nurses on the one hand. Hospice nurses, chaplains, and palliative care physicians, on the other.

Dr. Kathy Selvaggi and Dr. Atul Gawande (author of Being Mortal, the book on which the Frontline series is based) both say that it is really, really hard coming to the realization you or a loved one is dying. They tell us that, for most people, when it comes to dying: Fear Rules.

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