Ask La Comadre: “I’m a frustrated hija. Help.”
My father passed away 3 years ago, leaving behind my mother, who was his caregiver for years. After his death, my mother decided to move in with me, my husband and our 3 children, here in New York. Over the last few years, my mother’s health has declined. She is overweight, has diabetes, and mild mobility problems, among others. My husband and I work, while juggling our growing children’s needs and activities. So, having mom around, with all of her medical problems and dietary needs is quite challenging. I am responsible for taking her to her doctor’s appointments, shopping and cooking (separately for her) according to her dietary needs, and even helping her put her socks on. Although she walks around just fine and does things for herself, at times, I feel like she expects me to do everything for her, as she refuses to do anything but watch telenovelas all day. Her excuse is that she’s sick and can’t move too much. I have two brothers, but I’m “la hija,” if you know what I mean… I’m feeling very frustrated. Any advice? — Frustrated Daughter in NY
Querida Frustrated Daughter,
I hear you. This is an issue many Latinas deal with, especially as their parents grow older. I have a few suggestions: First of all, has she been objectively evaluated by a doctor or physical therapist to know exactly what types of activities she can and cannot engage in? Having this information will help you encourage her and expect her to do more at home. No more excuses.
Avoid letting guilt or fear (that she would think of you as a “bad daughter”) make you do more than you need to. If she can walk over to turn on the television for her telenovelas, she can certainly help with some light chores at home, like folding her clothes or cutting vegetables for dinner while she’s sitting down (watching TV!).
Second, don’t be afraid to delegate the care. The bulk of the caring for aging parents normally falls on las hijas, for cultural reasons. Have your brothers take turns taking her to her doctor’s appointments. Make a special folder with all her medical history and medications, and give these to your brothers. Update them and involve them as much as possible in her life. Ask them take her home for a weekend. If, for whatever reason, they refuse or cannot help with her care, have a meeting and discuss having them pay for a few hours per week of formal care. Yes, everyone will resist at first, but that’s only “at first”. Haste la loca, and push for it.
Third, don’t hesitate to submit an application for a home health aide or home attendant. New York is great for these types of services. If your mother’s activities of daily living are really challenged by her health condition, she will most likely qualify for several hours of paid help per week. Speak to her doctor about it or consult a local social service professional. If she doesn’t meet the financial criteria for obtaining these services, this only means that either she, or your family, can afford paid help. If that’s the case, make the decision to hire someone. It will be money well spent.
La Comadre, Angelica Perez-Litwin, founder and writer of ModernFamilia, is a Certified Professional Life Coach and has a Family Life Coaching practice. She has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and over 15 years of clinical experience as a psychotherapist and counselor. Email your questions to: [email protected]