Don't Let Dad Sink Your Ship
by Bob Rosner
The struggle to keep your head above water while carrying a job, family and an older parent reminds me of the Titanic.
A scientist has concluded that it wasn't only the iceberg that sank the boat. There were also defects in the Titanic's rivets, small imperfections that made them brittle and ready to pop under pressure. So it wasn't the design of the mighty ship that failed. It was the details.
This is what often happens when you take your parent into your home. Your initial design, creating a supportive environment for Dad, is strong. But the rivets, the little details that you overlook, threaten to take you down.
For strategies on how to deal with day-to-day survival, I turned to Virginia Morris's book, "How to Care for Aging Parents". It's full of insight and great coping strategies for any personal situation that distracts you from your job, and I've adapted the following:
- Are you choosing your battles? It's hard to play the authority figure with someone who has a Ph.D. in pushing your buttons, so you've got to pick your battles carefully. Stick to important ones (like taking medicine and exercise) and stay away from the lesser ones (like what he's wearing and his tone of voice).
- Have you established rules? It may seem heartless initially, but you need to set guidelines. For example, he can only call you at work during specified hours. Unless it's a crisis, his needs can wait an hour or two; often your job can't.
- How extensive is your network? My friend Bill's dad lives by himself 1,000 miles away. Bill swapped phone numbers with his dad's neighbors and now whenever he's concerned about his dad, he's got eyes and ears in the neighborhood.
- Can your children help with their grandfather? Don't leave those carefully honed delegation skills at work! Challenge the generation gap by asking your kids to take part in their grandfather's care. They can become regular visitors, run errands, and remind him to take his medicine. (If he's far away, they can write or be a weekly voice on the telephone reminding him he's not alone.)
- Are you discreet in discussing your dad at work? It's tempting to confide in coworkers about your interruptions and concerns. But you don't want your problems to become a problem to the boss. So be discreet.
Hopefully, this column has helped to rivet your attention to the little details that can help keep you afloat.
Bob Rosner is the author of Working Wounded: Advice That Adds Insight to Injury. Check out his Web site, WorkingWounded.com. He's a speaker and a regular contributor to myprimetime.com.
• Feeding Your Folks
• Gain Tax Breaks When You Support a Parent
• Curbing a Dangerous Driver
• Grandpa the Rebel
• The Insult of Aging
• Parenting Your Parents