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Staying Home Instead

Caring for a Parent

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 1, January-February 2001, pp. 20-22

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Staying Home Instead" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.


Because all my siblings work full time and I don't, I was drafted to care for our elderly, infirm father in our home. On one hand, it's great for my children to have their grandfather, but because he's ill, I have to spend a fair amount of time caring for him, driving him to doctor's visits, and doing other chores. I want to make my father's remaining time happy, but I'm beginning to feel the strain of caring for a parent, a baby, and a preschooler. I'm afraid my stress level is beginning to affect my husband and children. How have others managed to live with a sick parent and still maintain a positive attitude?


Congratulations on the special love you share during this challenging time. When my daughter, Veronika, was ten months old, my mother's parents, both in their 80's, came to live with us in the home we bought together. I remember the time being difficult. I was caring for an infant, a grandfather, and a sickly grandmother who was unhappy due to her lack of independence, and all of us had moved into a brand new home. I was running my small home-based business and trying to make us all one family. One thing that worked for us was breastfeeding! It was so convenient everywhere we went, and since my daughter's health was excellent due to the protective effects of human milk, I did not have to worry about her.

It also helped to schedule doctor's appointments or other car trips in the
morning when everyone was fresh, and pacing the scheduling, such as one appointment per week, or a day off in between. We combined trips when possible. For example, if one person needed a dental cleaning, I tried to schedule appointments for someone else at the same time. We would usually go out to lunch after the appointment to ease the burden of cooking.

Every day we would schedule a "siesta" time for one to two hours after lunch where the entire household quieted down by napping, reading, or just relaxing.

My grandparents cherished having their own space. When they moved in with us, we all bought a new house together. We purposefully chose a two-level home so my grandparents could have their own room and bathroom, as well as complete access to the common rooms. The linoleum floor made wheelchair accessibility possible. The rest of the family primarily slept and worked upstairs.

My extended family provided help, such as coming over to wash my grandparents' clothes, cleaning their bathroom, or taking them clothes shopping. Timesaving services can help a lot. Use a grocery service to deliver to your home (this also avoids candy wars in the checkout line). Order gifts and do household shopping via Internet sites or catalogue. Medications or prescriptions may be ordered by phone, either through your doctor's office, or on the Internet. Request forms by mail. Health histories can be filled out at home; to avoid time spent in the doctor's office. Postage stamps can be ordered by mail. Hiring services, such as someone to cut your grass, can be helpful. A large wall calendar will help everyone to know when appointments and special events are scheduled.

Let those in your care, both young and old, help with daily chores in any way they can, as a form of physical and mental therapy by folding laundry, folding clean towels, taking out the trash, or unloading the dishwasher. This can often turn into a bonding and learning experience for your whole family. It is also important for the elderly to know they are needed and good for the young ones to learn the value of helping out.

Consider a transportation service. Some are available free or at low cost to people with certain illnesses and may take them all over your area. With this special kind of attention, my grandparents received the best of care.

My grandparents' presence in our home enabled my daughter to learn about our family. Our familys native language was spoken every day in our home, so that my child learned it first. My daughter still remembers the stories and art time she had with her greatgrandmother, who died this year. And my grandfather will celebrate his 90th birthday next year.

Angela Budreika
San Diego CA USA


Three years ago, I found myself in a situation similar to yours. It can be very stressful caring for young children and parents at the same time. My children were nine, six, and two when we made the decision to care for my mother-in-law (a stroke survivor) in our home. We ended up caring for her for two and a half years, until her death. I found it very hard at times to keep a positive attitude and to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the situation.

One thing I did was to seek out people I felt I could talk about my feelings with; my husband was great as well as other friends. I also found a support group for caregivers which helped me learn about resources available within my community. In addition, I tried to read books on caregiving to help me understand my feelings as well as to gain information about the elderly. I found You and Your Aging Parent, The Practical Side of Love by Jill A. Boughton to be helpful because it included a section on caring for an elderly parent with children in the home.

We also found sometimes we had to be very firm with my husband's siblings in insisting that they come visit or "house-sit" my mother-in-law for a weekend so we could go out of town. I also learned as time went on which activities I could handle and which I could not. For example, shopping with Grandma and an impatient toddler would end in disaster, so we did shopping on weekends when my husband was home and could watch our toddler. I could handle a walk around the block or a short trip to a nearby zoo with Grandma in a wheelchair and my toddler on her lap. My children still have good memories of playing "telephone" around the dining room table with Grandma included.

I also tried to treat myself to a getaway activity once in a while. Since my two-year-old still nursed and did not like long separations, I found that a one-hour massage rejuvenated me and fit our schedule. At times, it was very difficult and I just had to remind myself that my children were learning valuable lessons in how to care for others and gaining warm memories with their grandmother.

Gail deSomer
South Bend IN USA


Just because you are an at-home mother, it doesn't mean you aren't busy or that you should necessarily be the only one responsible for caring for your father! Make sure your siblings know how you feel and how you want them to help. Could your siblings pay for a caregiver for your father in your absence? If that isn't possible, you might call your local social services and see what is available.

If you are involved in a church or synagogue, you might call and ask if there are any volunteers who can help you by preparing meals, providing transportation to doctor appointments, or just visiting with Dad while you take your children to the park or go out on a date with your husband. Next time someone offers to help, tell him or her exacoy what you need done. I think that you will find that people want to do something to help.

Schedule time for yourself, eat right, and get adequate rest. Remember that your family is depending on you! This is not a good time to be worn down and sick! Lastly, don't forget your husband during this trying time. The emotional and physical care you are giving to your parent, while you are also trying to keep up with a baby and preschooler can leave your husband a distant last place finisher! Even if a date is out of the question, make time to talk to each other in a quiet place.

Frances Coss
Frederick MD USA


Remember, you do have a full-time job: caring for your family. Although your siblings are not able to contribute their time to your father's care, perhaps they could contribute money to ensure you have private time with your family. By having someone to care for him for short periods of time, you will be able to use that time to tend to your personal needs and those of your children and husband. Home care companies offer personal care assistance, help running errands, transportation to doctor's appointments, and light housekeeping services. Also, check with any local government agencies on aging or your father's physician to see if your father is eligible for home care services under government subsidies or private health insurance coverage.

Colette Gatchell
Harpswell ME USA

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