Caregiving versus Enabling

caregiving-versus-enablingThere’s a big difference between caregiving and enabling. Nurturing is part of a caregiver’s nature, but trying to fix everything, solve everything and do everything for our care receivers isn’t always in their best interest. It also puts you, the caregiver, on a fast track to burnout.

This week I’ve been writing for Jeanine, a woman who is trying to figure out how to adapt to her new life following her husband’s debilitating stroke.

My first suggestion was for her to take a caregiver time out by accessing some organizations and services that could lighten her load. My second recommendation was for her to her value own needs as much as she values meeting her husband’s needs.

Today I want to encourage her to give her husband the time and the space he needs to figure out what he can do to take care of himself.

My 88 year-old Aunt Jean is fiercely independent. She will never allow anyone to do something for her that she can do for herself. My dad, on the other hand, really enjoyed attention. He loved to be pampered, and he was happy to let my mother take care of him.

One day Mom wrote and said, “This is ridiculous! I’ve trained Quentin to make me his slave. I can be fully engrossed in a book or on the floor doing exercises, and if he says, “I’m thirsty,” I drop whatever I’m doing and run to the kitchen to get him a glass of water like I’m afraid if I don’t do it fast enough, he’ll fire me!”

It took a while, but she eventually realized that she should not do for him the things he was capable of doing for himself. Unless your care receiver is an invalid – don’t treat him like one. You will help him most by encouraging him to keep his independence and to do as much as he can for himself. He might even end up doing a few things for you once in a while, and that could help him maintain his dignity and keep a little balance in the relationship.

In case you missed the first two posts in this series, click on these links:

Give Yourself a Caregiver Timeout

Asking for What You Need