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Daddy’s Not-So Little Girl: Daughter Caregivers and their Fathers

This Father’s Day, we celebrate the men in our lives who raised us, provided for us and helped mold us into the people we are today. A great dad can be a family leader and hero in their children’s eyes. But if you are a family member providing long-term care for your father, you might need to be reminded that you are a hero too.

Family members may be the most immediate option for providing or managing long-term care. They are intimately connected to the seniors they love. They know details about their health, character, preferences, finances and future plans. But family members are rarely able to accurately assess the emotional costs of family caregiving on their relationships. Caring roles reverse when children become caregivers for their parents, or when spouses care for each other. This may be the most comfortable arrangement for you, but it’s common for seniors to feel like something is wrong when a family member is responsible for needs they used to completely take care of independently.

With the men who took care of business and caught us when we’d fall, it can be especially hard to switch around the roles. Daughters and wives are frequently the go-to family caregivers for senior fathers. After lifetimes of depending on Dad, these women might find their worlds turned upside down when Dad becomes dependent on them. Nevertheless, daughters who are dedicated to their fathers can easily become “women in the middle” who juggle multiple roles. Daughter caregivers are frequently mothers, wives and employees while providing care for their aging parents. Each role can place impossible demands on them that compete for their time and energy. If you are a daughter caregiver for a father you love, understand that that this is a hard job and that it puts you in a uniquely difficult place from the standpoint of mental, emotional and physical stress.

The objective of good senior caregiving is to enrich an aging loved one’s life and encourage independent living to the extent that it is possible. A big part of this is maintaining the dignity of seniors who receive care. At the same time, a daughter providing care must take care of herself. Even though daughters may be most familiar available to care for their parents, the very fact that they are family might make father’s feel it compromises their dignity, and for certain caregiving duties, it may even feel humiliating to them. As a caregiver, daughters may also feel parts of their dignity are being sacrificed when moving into that caregiving role.

In contemplation of this Father’s Day, how can daughter caregivers protect their fathers dignity and their own? What kind of tension might a daughter caregiver face supporting a father who may have been their role model for their whole lives? What can fathers and daughter caregivers do to deal with this tension and preserve their relationships? If you are asking yourself these questions, this article may have some answers.

Here are two points of view to depict the sensitive relationship between a senior father and his daughter, who provides his long-term care. Mark, a widowed father, suffered a stroke and just recently started needing long-term care. He lives at home alone, but his grown daughter Jessica temporarily moved in to ease his transition from the hospital. Jessica is married and has two children and a full-time job. They both place deep importance on Mark’s care, but have started to realize the trouble that comes with it. Maybe you will be able to relate to how Mark and Jessica feel about family caregiving.

Mark

My daughter Jessica is the apple of my eye. She is smart, successful and loving, especially to her family. I see her enjoy her husband and kids every time they visit, and they all look at her like she lights the world. Right now, she’s the only light in my world. I am recovering from this stroke as best I can. But I wish I didn’t need so much help from Jessica. I have always been healthy and strong. I am proud to say I kept our family afloat through job layoffs, my wife’s cancer and more. My wife, God rest her soul, would be very proud of the woman Jessica has become, but probably saddened to see her working so hard.

I know Jessica traded things from her life to temporarily help me with mine. We’re so alike, stubborn and independent. This is hard for both of us. Jessica wakes me up every morning to eat a very nutritious meal (made by her), bathes, dresses me, and gets my entire day going. I’ve never really wanted this for her. I wouldn’t trust anyone else in the world with my life, but being this close never happened when I was healthy. I was the one changing her diapers, struggling with pantyhose, attempting to do her hair and driving her from school to softball practice when she was younger. My, how the roles have reversed.

I take it day by day and cherish Jessica for helping me. I will never lose the love I have for her, no matter how old I get. It’s hard for her to see me needing so much help, but I dedicate my progress to being strong enough to ease the burden off her shoulders. 

Jessica

If my dad ever tells me he’s fine on his own, I want to believe him. l want him to be that invincible guy who could do absolutely everything for anyone, including himself. I know he wants the same too. But while he needs help, we both have to accept a small sacrifice. We have to accept each other’s sacrifices too. I’m here to do anything it takes to make him healthy again. If that means my husband has to hold the fort on his own at home, that’s okay. Family is family. I am all Dad has left. 

It’s funny how much we both know about this situation. It’s tough. It’s hopefully temporary. We know that with my help, Dad will get better, and that will only help me. But the sacrifice I know Dad makes every day as he watches his only daughter become his lifeline is one of pride. We are both so independent. We want to do everything ourselves. I never saw him needing anyone else’s help when I was younger. He took care of everything on his own. It hurts us both to watch that go away. For now, I devote everything to that “someday” – the day when Dad can stand on his own feet with OR without me.


 

Mark and Jessica have a loving relationship strained by the service of caregiving. It affects Mark’s sense of self and identity as Jessica’s strong, independent father. He misses his former healthy self while wishing Jessica could be as independent as they both used to be. Jessica feels entirely devoted to Mark without complaint, but she feels a tension in accepting how much they both sacrifice. She feels empathetic for her father, who she knows is going through a hard time physically and mentally.

Both Mark and Jessica are on the verge of accepting hard truths about family caregiving. If you are a family caregiver or a senior receiving care from family, it can help to keep the things below in mind:

  • Caregiver burnout stresses family caregivers who have to juggle multiple responsibilities in addition to caregiving.
  • Seniors receiving care can feel uncomfortable with family caregivers who cross into intimate boundaries.
  • Family caregivers feel an extra sense of familial devotion that hired caregivers may lack.
  • A family caregiver, if they are the only person available to help, may feel isolated and sad.
  • Seniors who watch their family make sacrifices for their long-term care can feel guilty for occupying them.
  • With a goal to improve health and hopes for better days, family caregivers will do anything for a senior they love.
  • Children of seniors report strain in their own marriages when they have to care for their parent.

The first step to dealing with hard truths to swallow about family caregiving is acknowledging feelings and observations such as these. You cannot ignore how family caregiving affects you or your loved ones. Especially if family caregiving is taking an emotional toll on either the senior or the caregiver, you must realize the truth beneath the emotion.

Next, talking about these things, no matter what social or emotional obstacles you feel, will break the ice above the healing you will reach. If you are a senior, let your caregiver know what you are comfortable with or not, and if something you do not like must happen for the sake of your health, tell your caregiver it is a sensitive issue. Caregivers should listen carefully to these things if a senior musters the courage to say them. They should also relay what they learn into action, showing tact and sensitivity to a senior’s needs in the way they communicate, behave, and convey meaning through body language.

“Family is family,” as Jessica says. But when family is strained and suffers tension because of caregiving, having help can alleviate stress and drastically improve relationships. Delegate responsibilities to other loved ones, consult health professionals for instruction or commission a caregiver from a trusted agency. If you do not want caregiving to strain your family, and know this before you actually need long-term care, plan and prepare your assets to cover care when you need it in the future.

 

If you want to learn more about protecting your family and preparing for long-term care in the future, we would love to talk to you.

 

“Daddy’s Not-So Little Girl: Daughter Caregivers and their Fathers,” by Michelle Mendoza, Amada Blog contributor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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