Setting Limits in Order to Reduce Caregiver Stress

My mother was in very poor health when Dad suffered a debilitating stroke. While still in the hospital, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Dad told Mom he was concerned about the additional burden caring for him would put on her. She said, “Don’t worry. You have already prepaid your medical care with me.”

About three years later, she got upset with him because he wouldn’t do his exercises or much of anything else to contribute to his own care. In addition to being lazy, he was acting grumpy, fussy and demanding. Mom reached her limit one morning and said, “Do you remember when I said your care was prepaid? Well, guess what, Pal? You just overdrew your account, and you are now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy!” She went on to tell him that she hadn’t signed any contract guaranteeing to take care of him for the rest of his life and if he didn’t shape up and start trying harder she could and would resign as his caregiver.

I don’t believe she would have ever done that, but evidently, Dad wasn’t quite so sure. He shaped up.

It’s one thing to be a caregiver. It’s another thing to be a doormat. Unless a person has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it’s likely that they can still control a great deal of their behavior.

If you are going to care for someone over an extended period of time, you will need to establish some limits. If gentle hints don’t work, you may have to “explain” things as my mother did. Setting limits on what you can do and what kind of behavior you will tolerate isn’t unkind. It’s critical to your survival.