Balancing Caregiving and Enabling
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Balancing Caregiving and Enabling

Being a caregiver is a delicate balancing act at times, whether you’re caring for an elderly parent, another loved relative, or a spouse. On the one hand, you want the best for them and you want to help them to thrive and overcome challenges in the same way they have all their lives. But on the other hand, your loved one deserves a well-earned, restful twilight years, after a busy, active adult life, and you certainly don’t want to push them beyond their limits and capabilities. And it is just as likely that your loved one has thoughts and opinions about their care as well, and will wish to remain as independent as possible, as well as not wanting to feel like they’re being a burden to you. As a result, they may be hesitant to confront, or sometimes completely avoid, any of the hard stuff, or overextend themselves trying to take it on alone. Change is hard for everyone, especially the changes brought as a result of aging.

So you may wonder how you can make sure that your loved one’s needs are met in the best way possible, and how can you ensure their quality of life continues at the highest standard. It’s crucial to balance doing everything for your loved one and removing their agency and leaving them to do everything for themselves. When providing family care, it’s important to understand and appreciate the difference between helping and enabling your loved one. This is vital for establishing an environment of care that is beneficial to both the recipient of care, and you as the caregiver. When caring for a loved one, after all, you have been entrusted with helping them to maintain as much of their independence as possible.

When the care is being provided for someone we love and have history and emotional connections with, it can be tricky. For example, if you as an adult child are providing care for a now elderly parent, the unexpected role reversal can stir up a lot of feelings that can unfortunately complicate the situation. And because you love them, you may find yourself overextending yourself and overmanaging their situation and their care, because naturally you want the best for them and don’t want them to worry about things after them having spent so many years handling things for themselves and for you on their own.

But being a caregiver doesn’t mean doing it all. That can lead to you becoming tired, stressed, and build feelings of resentment in you. Caregiver burnout is something that occurs when you become mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. And of course, this isn’t what’s best for your loved one. There will naturally be a lot of things they are still interested in, so let them help. One of the most common causes of emotional problems in older adults is the feeling of a loss of independence, so continued engagement in activities and chores is good for overall health.

It’s possible to help your loved one instead of enabling them, and it's important to empower them as you help. Keeping them engaged and able to contribute as they age will keep them in high spirits, as well as maximize their physical and emotional health, allowing them to enjoy life to the fullest as they continue through their twilight years.