Knowledge For Caregivers

Role Reversal

Episode Summary

How to manage our relationships with our older loved ones as they become more dependent on us.

Episode Transcription

Katherine Cocks0:02 

Hi, my name is Kathy. I've been a geriatric nurse for over 10 years. Many times when I would meet with family members of aged loved ones, they didn't always know what to do. I started this podcast knowledge for caregivers, to assist them with practical suggestions as they assist their own loved ones age with dignity and grace.


Katherine Cocks0:24 

I want to welcome you back to this episode. And we want to talk about the changes in the relationships with our parents. For me, some of that change started when I was 22 years old. My mom, who was living in the Philippines at the time, had developed breast cancer. So the family immediately came back to the states to get it treated. Her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her 50s and it ended up taking her life in mid 50s. So now my mom really didn't think that she was going to make it through this time period. So she was beginning to turn to me as a 22 year old just out of nursing school, and I just kind of looked bug eyed like, I don't know what to tell you. I don't know that much about oncology. But she had the surgery, she had a mastectomy. I went up there to help her. In the first couple of days after recovery. My aunt also lived up there and she was retired nurse so she helped my mom. And then I was busy working and planning my wedding while my mom was going through chemotherapy. When it was over, we thought, okay, this is over. She's now cleared of cancer, they didn't see any cancer. And she was walking and trying to get her strength back. And then she started coughing all the time. More tests were done. And then we discovered that chemotherapy had damaged her heart similar to a heart attack. So now she had what was called congestive heart failure. All of a sudden, mom is just asking me a ton of questions about her heart and when she's going to die, because it's really scary. When your heart doesn't work, because you only have one heart. When you have breast cancer, you can at least take it out. I didn't know what to say to her. Eventually, they got her on medicine and she got stronger. And then eventually she went back to the Philippines for about another 10 years. But unfortunately, her congestive heart failure got worse. She came back to the States. My dad, I'm in my 30s. And she's just asking me, When am I going to die? What's going to happen to me? And I just didn't know how to answer those things. But mom seemed to trudge along until closer to the end of her life. And her last year, she was really having trouble breathing. And it was really hard. And she had never struggled with mental health, like depression, anxiety. And if you've heard in any of my podcasts, you know that I have had to learn to manage those conditions. And she just said, there feels like this dark cloud on me. I don't want your dad to ever leave me. I don't know what to do. And all of a sudden, my mom, whom I'm always asking for advice is now you know, really turning to me and seeking emotional support. And it was really kind of awkward. transition time. The thing about it is, if any of our parents or loved ones lived long enough, at some point, they're going to get probably frailer. Yeah, there are a few people that just have a massive heart attack and pass away. But there are many people whose body just slowly begins to get weaker and their joints hurt. Their heart doesn't work as well, maybe they began to have memory problems. And in some ways be began to have a little bit of a role reversal. Not totally because our parents don't become our children. They begin to depend on us. And sometimes this is a really hard time many times. I've talked to adult children, and they just began to cry because they're like I'm losing my parent. I know it feels that way. But one of the things that I try to explain to people is that we need to reframe how we are looking at this. If we frame it as I'm losing my parent, it's going to be a different relationship. What we need to reframe it as is the relationship is changing. And our relationships are always changing. You know, when we're teenagers, our parents are really not very bright. And all of a sudden we hit our 20s and we're buying houses getting married, trying to find a career and all of a sudden we're turning to our parents for advice. How do you change out this socket is the sound in my car, something I need to be worried about?


Katherine Cocks4:54 

I have a flat tire Who do I car at midnight. We began to really depend on our parents And they're helping us out. And then we sort of reached that I say middle stage where we're much more of adult to adult companionship. And as our parents get older, their relationship changes again, because they began to have trouble navigating the complexity of life, maybe they have many doctors, maybe they have many medical appointments. One of the things that older people struggle with is called multitasking, you and I can do three things at once. But as people get older, they just can't do that. There's nothing wrong with them. But they can only do one thing at a time. So we have to make sure that we're communicating to them one thing at a time and not coming to them and say, Okay, we need to talk about the house. And we need to talk about the bank account, and we need to make sure that your will is set up, we need to come to them and just say, let's do one thing. The other thing that people don't realize, in modern society, is how complex everything is with technology. I once went to a doctor's office, and they handed this older gentleman a tablet and said, You need to fill out all your information on this tablet. Number one, he had some vision problems. Number two, he didn't know how to use a tablet. Number three, a lot of older people have neuropathy, or changes in their fingers. So when they're trying to touch these pads, there's nothing they can feel. And so it's very, very difficult for them. And he goes, I can't do this, and the lady at the desk, I felt bad for her. She goes sorry, I'm not allowed to assist you. But if you want, I'll let the doctor help you get this filled out. So you can imagine how frustrating that is for a very independent 75 to 80 year old person. And so they'd have to start bringing their kids to these appointments, just to help them figure out how to set up things with technology, how to check in at a kiosk. So with all of our technological changes, they're just struggling to be able to assimilate all of that. Also, they're physically just can't do a lot of stuff. I had some kids complaining, because you know, their dad wasn't taking a shower. And I finally said, Tell me why you're not taking a shower. They thought he just was being a slob and didn't care about his hygiene. He wasn't taking a shower, because getting into the shower was just very physically difficult. So you can imagine that somebody who doesn't feel good, has now got to figure out how to get their yard mowed, or hire somebody, make sure their house is getting fixed, make sure that they have meals to eat. And maybe they're taking care of a spouse on top of it. And they themselves are physically tired, they're struggling with a lot of things, they don't walk as well. And we think that they should be able to perform at an optimum level. So what are some suggestions as we began to have these role reversals, in some ways that we're beginning to have to help our parents more, and they're beginning to call us for advice. So one of the things to look at is, don't treat your parents as children, make sure to share time with them as adults. I know so many times we come in and you know, we've got a lot of things, we got to take care to help them out. But don't treat them like children, they are adults. Remember, they're also changing. And this is a hard time for them, maybe their bodies failing them. Maybe they've lost people to death and friends that they really treasure. Some people have even lost their children if they live long enough. Remember that this is a learning process both for the child who's having to step in and help the parent as well as the parent who's trying to figure out how to be independent, but also get help with things that they need. The third thing is do look out for warning signs or changes that are yellow flags. These are things like hygiene, weight loss,


Katherine Cocks9:06 

maybe they're not cooking and cleaning, maybe they're withdrawing, maybe they're having some confusion or mood swings, especially people who have personality changes. These are all things that need to get checked out by the doctor. And you may have to sometimes start going with them to the doctor. And the last thing that I tell people, when you're beginning to have to help your loved ones more is know when to ask for help. expecially if you need professional help, caregiving that changes with our loved ones can be emotionally taxing on us. I was told about a man who was helping take care of his wife and she was just in denial about her disease process. And she wanted everything done a certain way and he was trying to meet her needs, but it was so precise and he just couldn't do it anymore. And they just were constantly arguing. And he's like They really were coming to a point of divorce, they didn't really want a divorce. It's just that they were in this new crisis mode, and they didn't know how to handle it. And he started going to counseling. And after that he had some tools. And he had some support and someone to kind of help guide him through this process. And they kind of were able to get through and have a better communication and have better strategy of how to deal with the wife's illness. So when we're asking for help, like I said, it could be asking other people for help. It could be seeking professional help when you're just overwhelmed because it can really be overwhelming. You don't want to make the wrong decision. You feel like you're totally responsible. You're not really unless you've been made a guardian of your parents. I have worked as a nurse for over 10 years. So my passion is to help people navigate this aging journey. So I thank you for listening to this podcast and going on this journey with me. I hope you have enjoyed this podcast. If you have found it helpful, then share it. If you wish to contact me for consulting services, you can reach me at www Cathy's and Kathy's is spelled K A Thys. Remember, all content is meant for informational purposes only, and not to replace the advice of healthcare professionals.


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