Time-consuming administrative work is an essential part of caregiving
"Minding Our Elders" columnist Carol Bradley Bursack says it's as valuable and necessary as visiting a parent.
Dear Carol: I visit my dad in assisted living and my mom in memory care several times a week. They’re reasonably happy given their health challenges and are active and well cared for. I manage their health care, including their prescriptions, and I accompany them to their medical appointments. Additionally, I take care of their finances, including insurance and taxes.
Yet when Mom asks why I don’t stay with her longer when I visit, or my brother wonders why I don’t spend hours every day with each of our parents, I feel guilty. It’s hard to explain to others how time-consuming and emotionally wearing the combination of visits and the administrative aspects of caregiving can be. I have a marriage, children and a job all needing my time. I just don’t feel like I can do more, but I can’t shake the guilt. — TL.
Dear TL: Something that is often missed in caregiving discussions is the substantial time it takes to do the administrative work involved with providing care.
Just working with the facilities and the insurance companies is a lot. Add your elders’ medical care management, the trips to the clinics, tracking the medications and questioning those where necessary, getting the bills and taxes taken care of... Whew! I’ve been there. This is a substantial time commitment.
What's important is that your parents are reasonably content and cared for. Your mom is unlikely to remember your explanations so as hard as it is not to defend yourself, it may be best to just let it go. Tell her you love her, give her a hug and let her know you’ll be back soon.
Regarding your brother’s criticism, I’d suggest that you tell him that you'd really like to spend more time with your parents so your new plan is that he can take over both financial and health care management. One of two things will happen. A light bulb could go off and he’ll apologize and offer to help where he can, or else he’ll scramble to provide excuses why he can’t. Either way, you’ll have accomplished something. It would help if he could at least manage the finances, insurance and taxes, but if he can’t or won’t, he should be less likely to criticize you and may even become more emotionally supportive.
You seem to have the logistics and services in hand. Both the visiting and administrative aspects are important and you’re doing your best in each of these areas. You don’t need to feel guilty for not spending hours at a time with each parent. They are reasonably happy receiving good care. You are seeing them regularly to make sure they are doing as well as can be expected. Truly, that’s enough.
Remember that the administrative part of caregiving is as valuable and necessary as the visiting, and often only family members can do it. You are one fantastic caregiver, TL. I only hope that you can get a few breaks now and then so that your own health isn’t irreparably damaged.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.