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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 means obsolescence.

     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 dressed.

     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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