When Kate moved in with her parents as a temporary solution, she never thought her life would be flipped upside down.
“I moved into my parents’ spare room in 2010 – to help Dad when my late mother was diagnosed with dementia. It was the right thing to do,” said Kate to Daily Mail.
She’d been living with her ex fiancee for eight years and when the engagement broke, she had to move out and live in a friend’s spare room in a flat nearby.
“When my father suggested moving back in to help with my mother, I jumped at the chance. It was to be a temporary arrangement,” said Kate.
Then life as she knew it came to an abrupt halt.
Chores related to her parents such as cleaning the house, making supper, endless round of hospital and doctor’s appointments, always fell on her
“The reason? My sisters are married with children and I am not,” said Kate.
“There seems to be a tacit agreement that my life is less important because I don’t have a family of my own.
She has always imagined she would meet Mr Right, have a family and settle down in a house in the country but instead, “I often wake up in the middle of the night wondering where it all went wrong. That’s bad enough, but being burdened with the lion’s share of caring for my elderly parents adds insult to injury.”
Kate said that she wouldn’t dream of abandoning her responsibilities but feels that acknowledgement from people around her that though my life has taken a different turn to theirs, it is no less important. “At times, I am in despair at having to continually put my own hopes and dreams to one side,” Kate said.
Her sisters went on to marry and have children. Sarah has two teenaged daughters and and Louise, has two school-aged boys. “I knew my sisters were busy juggling jobs and children, but I felt I was the one doing all the real work,” Kate said.
When her mum was 72, she was diagnosed with vascular dementia. Her once gentle nature, became volatile, throwing keys across the room and shouting incoherently and unfortunately, within a year she’d had a stroke and was bedridden and incontinent.
In 2012, Kate’s mum suffered a second stroke and though her sisters visited the hospital every other day, it was left to her to talk to the nurses, whom their mum would spend the day screaming at, and sit with their dad as he held her hand and wept.
“After a couple of months, Mum came back home. I was consumed with anger about the continued inequality. Instead of being patient and kind to my poor dad, I’d end up screaming at him and retreating to my room,” said Kate.
Kate’s mother died in 2014 in a hospice and after that, it was just her and her dad.
“I remember once hearing a muffled noise coming from the kitchen. There was Dad, clutching a couple of bracelets the children had made Mum, tears plopping into his sandwich. I took his hand, understanding there was nothing that I could do, except be there,” said Kate.
Kate acknowledged that her sisters are as sympathetic as she is but the difference is that she is actually there, going through all the emotions with their dad.
Despite being crushed about being left with all the responsibility with their dad, Kate said, “There are also positives to my situation.”
“I’ve grown closer to Dad over these past few years: we get on, I make him laugh and I benefit from his wisdom whenever I have a crisis.”
Kate said that she doesn’t know if she’ll ever meet a man and settle dow, but, “At the moment, I have no plans to move out of Dad’s. I just hope that one day my two sisters will see that a less-than- conventional life like mine is no less important than theirs.”
How to turn resentment into patience and joy?
According to Clinical Psychologist and Professional Life Coach, Dr. Suzanne Gelb, these tips might be able to help you…
Release your feelings
As a caregiver, you are under a great deal of emotional pressure. You’ve got to uncork that bottle. Thwack a pillow. Punch a punching bag. Scream into your duvet covers. Get it out — but not just by “journaling” or “talking.” Go for physical release — the kind that creates an energetic shift in your body. You’ll feel lighter and freer immediately. And you’ll be better able to care and serve.
Find someone who “gets” it
You’re not the first person in the world who is taking care of an aging parent, sick partner, or a child with special needs. There’s help, out there. Find a support group, or even just one friend who “gets” it.
Seek personalised help
Find a counsellor, therapist or coach. If you can get some help with your caregiving duties, to give you more time for rest and self-care, do it. Remember: You don’t have to do this, alone.
Let go. But never give up
In the field of emotional health, there’s a technique known as “positive submission.” Positive submission isn’t the same as “surrendering” or “giving up.” It’s about recognising that there are certain things you can control, and certain things you cannot.
It means saying to yourself:
I will strive to make things better… when it is possible to do so.
I will vent my feelings safely and accept life’s limitations… when it is not.
That’s “positive submission.” As a caregiver, and human being, sometimes that is all you can do. And that is enough.
Caring for another human being is a privilege
And even if you’re not feeling “terrific” about your role as a caregiver right this moment, you can learn to manage the emotions that have been building inside you. Do that, and very soon, you’ll find more satisfaction and joy in your work. And the person under your care will receive something priceless:
Given freely. From the best possible version of you.