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"I Don't Want
to be a Burden"
There are reasons an aging parent is
concerned about "being a burden."
One is that, no matter what a family may be
saying and doing, our American culture is sending a different message.
We live in a society that equates productivity with value. One that
sees independence and self-worth as synonymous. One that says age
New is good. Newer is better. Newest is best.
Whether it's cars, computers, ideas . . . or people.
A second reason a parent can feel like a
burden is the matter of losing control. In the past Mom took care of
herself. (Herself and the whole family!) Now she can't get to the
doctor if someone doesn't drive her. She can't walk across the room to
get a cup of coffee. She knows she has become so dependent on others.
A third reason for that burden feeling is the
issue of pride. It's hard for Dad to maintain his sense of dignity
when he can no longer bathe himself. When he needs help getting
And a fourth reason for a parent's concern is
that he or she can see what is happening to you, the adult child.
There are times when you're overloaded. Times when stress is running
high. Your mom or dad can't suddenly stop being a parent. Can't
suddenly stop worrying about you and your health and happiness.
Unfortunately, that can be the time when Mom
or Dad raises the subject. His or her "I don't want to be a
burden" pops out when you're feeling angry, upset or frustrated.
Typically, the immediate answer is "No, you're not!"
Typically, the immediate feeling is guilt.
What can you do? Here are some suggestions:
● Give yourself the luxury of admitting
what you're doing is hard. Remember this situation will not last
forever. Fortunately, and unfortunately, it will end.
● Look for outside support. Try to
avoid becoming so overloaded Dad does seem like a burden.
● Realize Mom may need to be reassured
more than once. Yes, you told her last week that she is not a burden
but . . . . "What about now . . . or now . . . or now?"
● See if there's some small part of a
bigger task your dad can do so that he feels like he's helping out at
least a little bit. Or if there's something he can do for you—a
token gesture to say "thanks" or to make things easier for
you—because of all you've been doing for him. (setting the table,
folding the laundry, for example)
● Sit down with your parent during a
calm time and talk about the idea of him or her being a burden. Let
your parent know that providing care is something you want to do. Yes,
there are hectic moments, but you see taking care of him or her as a
privilege. It's one small—and, at times, not-so-small—way of
saying "thank you" for all your parent has done for you. You
can also point out that you view your mom or dad’s accepting your
help as a gift from your parent to you.
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