How do you care for someone who refuses to let you help them?

My mother refuses to have outside help. It needs to be me, her daughter, who helps her. But she really wants a servant.

She raised me to be a woman who’s practical. Who thinks about what people might need and gets it for them. Who does what needs to be done. You’d think that would make me a good caregiver. I want to make things as easy as possible for her.

That’s not what she wants.

She’s been having trouble getting around on her own, even in the house. The doctor suggested we minimize her fall risk. I reorganized the ground floor of the house according to the instructions in the pamphlet he gave us. Rolled up the throw rugs, moved furniture over so nothing was blocking the doorways, anchored the bookcases into the wall in case she grabbed onto them. She was livid. She insisted everything be moved back, safety be damned.

And she keeps falling. She tripped on the rug. At first I thought she didn’t call for help so I wouldn’t know she fell. Perhaps she hoped she’d be able to get herself up and I’d never know, never be able to tell her I told her so. Which I wouldn’t say, but we both are thinking it.

But she can’t get herself up when she falls. She’ll try, though. She will sit there for hours, refusing help, straining and failing to hoist herself up. She won’t use a walker. She won’t make the house safer. Instead, she falls and lays there until she soils herself.

That’s usually when she’ll give up and let me help her to her feet. She’ll wait until she needs to use the toilet urgently before she agrees to let me help her up. And then with the strain of getting up, even with me lifting her, she’ll have an accident on both of us.

I thought she’d learn that lesson the first time and not repeat it. I was wrong. The third time I tried to, delicately, suggest she should let me help her up sooner because of what had happened the last two times. That did not go over well. Apparently it’s disrespectful for me to try to prevent her from having an accident — both the falling and the soiling both of us — but it’s not disrespectful for her to choose to harm herself.

Who has to clean up after this? I do. Who has to take hours from my day to deal with this every time? I do. Hours when I should be doing other things to care for her. I am willing to care for her, but she insists on making this job much more difficult than it needs to be.

K.K.

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