It’s often assumed that as parents age, their adult children assume the role of primary caregiver and provide the care their parents require throughout the rest of their lives, or until they’re unable to do so. For example, sometimes aging parents develop Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that require skilled nursing care or services beyond what their children can provide. But what happens if you don’t want to care for your elderly mother?
Not All Mother-Child Relationships are Positive
While some adult children do become the primary caregiver for an aging parent, not all do so willingly. In other cases, friends or other relatives take on the responsibility, paid caregivers are hired, or the parent moves to assisted living or another type of senior living community.
Not all mother-child relationships are the same, and sometimes, becoming your elderly mother’s caregiver isn’t in your best interests – or hers. If you often don’t see eye to eye with your mom, conflicts can easily arise when you step into the role of caregiver. Some child-parent relationships are strained due to prior estrangement or other complicated history, and the role reversal that occurs when an adult child becomes a caregiver for an elderly parent can bring those past issues to the surface.
Are You the Best Caregiver for Your Elderly Mother?
Even if you do have a strong positive relationship with your mother, you may not be the most suitable caregiver for her. Perhaps you have a demanding career that requires frequent travel or long, inconsistent hours that make it impractical to take on caregiving responsibilities for your mother. Or, you may have health concerns of your own that will make it difficult for you to provide the care your mom needs. These are all perfectly valid reasons why you may not want to – and probably shouldn’t – be the primary caregiver for your elderly mother.
If your elderly mother expects that you’ll become her caregiver as she needs additional help with day-to-day activities, you may feel guilty or perhaps even resentful if you don’t want to take on the role. You might worry about making other suitable arrangements for your mother’s care or that she won’t agree to other caregiving arrangements. While these feelings are natural, it’s important to work through them and create an alternative plan that’s in your and your mother’s best interests.
I Don’t Want to Care for My Elderly Mother. Now What?
Whether you’ve determined that you don’t want to care for your elderly mother before the need arises or you’ve been performing some caregiving duties and have decided that you’re not able to continue, communicating your decision and making alternative arrangements can be challenging. Here are a few things you can do to make the situation easier for both you and your mom.
1. Shift Your Thinking
Until now, you’ve probably been thinking, “I don’t want to care for my elderly mother,” or, “I don’t want to be my mother’s caregiver any longer.” But rather than think of it as a refusal or quitting, think of it as a change in how you’ll care for her.
For example, by sharing the workload with your siblings or hiring professional caregivers, you’ll be less stressed and therefore can be the best version of yourself when you are spending time with your mom. If your mother now requires care that you’re not qualified to provide, moving her to a senior living community that can provide for her needs is the best way you can care for her.
2. Communicate with Empathy
Perhaps the most difficult part of choosing not to care for your elderly mother is communicating that to her and your siblings or other family members, particularly if she wants and expects you to be her primary caregiver. That’s why it’s important to communicate with empathy and compassion. Understand that it may come as a shock and a disappointment to her and give her time to express her thoughts and feelings.
3. Emphasize the Benefits, Focusing on Mom
While sharing your decision with your mother and other family members, emphasize the benefits to your mother. Keep the focus on her and her needs, rather than on you and what you can’t or don’t want to do. Explain how this decision will result in better care for her and other benefits she’ll gain, such as that you’ll have more time to spend quality time visiting with her, rather than caring for her (if that’s something that you both want).
4. Consider (and Talk Through) Other Options
If emotions are high after the initial conversation with your mother, you can take some time to give each other space to process everything before getting into the next steps. However, if the situation is urgent, you’ll want to come to a decision about your mom’s care as soon as possible. Now that you’ve communicated that you won’t be the primary caregiver for your elderly mother, there are a few options to consider.
- Another family member. Perhaps a sibling or another family member is able and willing to take on the responsibility of being your mom’s primary caregiver, or more than one family member can make it work by sharing the responsibilities.
- Hiring in-home care. If your mother doesn’t require skilled services such as nursing or physical therapy, hiring home health aides or personal care attendants to come to your mom’s home and help her with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, and meal preparation is an option to consider.
- Moving to senior living. Another option is to move your mother to a senior living community. If you choose a continuing care retirement community, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that your mother’s care needs will be met throughout her life. These communities offer several levels of care on the same campus (independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and, in some cases, memory care), allowing residents to seamlessly transition between them as their needs change. Retirement communities also offer a range of services and amenities, from on-site beauty salons and massage services to transportation to appointments and other locations in the local area. Plus, your mother will have the opportunity to meet and socialize with other older adults.
After you get other arrangements in place for your mom or have chosen a senior living community, you can breathe a sigh of relief. While these are difficult conversations, the stress of taking on or remaining in a caregiving arrangement that isn’t right for you or your mom can take a toll. You’ll both be relieved with a more suitable arrangement.
While some older adults may resist the idea of moving to a senior living community, they may change their mind after learning about the lively and vibrant lifestyle they can lead at a retirement community like Arbors of Hop Brook. Take a virtual tour or schedule an in-person visit to learn about the many services and amenities residents can take advantage of throughout their golden years.