Ten Tips for Caregiving Daughters - and Their Mothers

As Mother’s Day approaches, many older women in a mother/daughter caregiving relationship may find it a bittersweet holiday. No matter how strong their relationship is with their mother, caregiving is an exhausting, often frustrating task.

As in many aspects of life there are lessons to be learned and a lot of bumps and bruises that occur along the way. The challenge with caregiving and care receiving is that needs are usually immediate. Decisions have to be made. There are no “do-overs.” Practice doesn’t always make perfect.

Here are some tips to help daughters and mothers faced with this daunting prospect:

  1. Ask the right (and enough) questions. How many times does experience come with 20/20 hindsight when we realize that we didn’t ask the right questions or didn’t know what we didn’t know? Nowhere is this more evident in healthcare and care situations. A simple question, “what should I be asking that I’m not asking?” goes a long way toward preventing possible mistakes or errors in care. Ask the question and then ask it again, and again, and again until you feel satisfied that you have a good understanding of the issues, the options, and the possible consequences of a decision.
  2. Don’t be naïve. Don’t assume that everything will be okay. Parents don’t want adult children to know everything about their lives. This includes day-to-day activities, health and money. When your parents say “we’re okay—we don’t need any help” this is the time to gently become persistent about identifying methods to provide support and assistance. Otherwise a small situation may spiral out of control to become a major concern.
  3. Keep the caregiver’s needs in mind. Caregiving fulfillment may involve leaving work early, devoting multiple hours to the care of a parent, sacrificing friendships and pleasurable activities, and giving up a life to devote to the care of another person. If you are a caregiver, set boundaries and stand up for your own needs. If you fail to take this action you may fail your loved one as a caregiver as your health and mental decline may make it impossible for you to provide care—you will become a care recipient.
  4. Have the end-of-life discussion. “That’s not going to happen to me.” This is an often repeated statement when I am at trade shows and attendees walk by my booth that focuses on receiving care, caregiving, and care planning. Who wants to talk about aging, needing care, and death? No one. This type of denial eventually comes full circle when one needs care and has failed to discuss options or made any plans. Now what? Just because you don’t talk about care or caregiving doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. Holding discussions when one is healthy allows clear thought, rational planning and more options. Waiting to have discussions until a crises occurs, often results in rapid decisions, potential mistakes and very limited choices.