Do you ever feel like you struggle with control issues in your caregiving role? Or do you feel like another caregiver is trying to exclude you from contributing?

Some people suffer from extreme issues where a caregiver bans others from seeing the person needing care completely. Others deal with more moderate problems such as a caregiver insisting that only she is capable of performing certain tasks. When a caregiver insists on having control it can actually make matters more difficult for her because she will only alienate those she might need for support later. Worse, she might be cutting off the person needing care from people he loves. Am I talking about you or someone you know?

It is easy to see how control becomes a factor in a caregiving relationship. In a situation where caregiving becomes greater than a part-time responsibility, an intimacy begins to develop between the caregiver and the caree. (Caree isn’t actually a word yet but it is becoming more common in the caregiving world. It covers loved one, patient, client, etc.) Over time the caree becomes more dependent on the caregiver. That dependence is both a positive and a negative. Attachment makes the caree feel secure; being needed makes the caregiver feel good. That’s one of the reasons they do it!

Caregivers tend to have the personalities of shepherds or mother hens.

Feeling needed is what makes them tick because they are natural givers. As they continue to do their jobs it is only natural to suspect that only they can meet the needs of the caree. Only they know how to prepare food the right way, or understand the person, or love them.

Control issues can stem from feelings of insecurity.

What would happen if the caregiver let someone else help and the caree felt attached to more than one caregiver? What if another caregiver tried to accomplish a task a different way and it worked really well? What if another caregiver were better than you? All of these concepts can feel threatening. But as in most lines of work, teamwork can be a good thing if you are lucky enough to have it. Collaboration helps to improve ideas.

In some cases, there is no one who is interested in helping at all except for the primary caregiver. In some cases there is no one who even wants to visit the caree. But usually there are a few people who want to do something to help out or would like to come by to visit. The primary caregiver should encourage this. It’s good for the caregiver and for the caree. The mental and emotional stimulation a new face can bring is healthy. The tough part is to let go of how things should be done when someone wants to help. In reality, there might be more than one way to do a task or interact with the caree. Let others try to help and communicate in their own way if it isn’t harmful. It can also be difficult to allow others to do nice things such as bring food, or fold laundry, or do an errand. Maybe it makes you feel obligated to them? Maybe it makes you feel like you can’t do it all if you accept help? If people offer, let them help you! You have enough to do and you know it.

Let others help if for no other reason than that it will make them feel good about themselves.

What should you do if you are the one who is feeling rebuffed? Be respectful of the primary caregiver’s role but try to create a niche of your own. Ask what you can do to help.

Do not criticize the way the primary caregiver has been handling matters or tasks; if you have not been doing it you do not understand the reasons and logic behind the way everything is currently being done.

It is easy to imagine how things should be, but those concepts could be far from realistic. You wouldn’t walk in to a new job and start telling the boss, “The way you’re running this place is totally wrong. Here’s what I would do.” Because you would be disliked and fired. As you would handle any other job in life, start with the small tasks and prove you can handle it. Allow the caregiver to see you want to help in a respectful way and that could create an easier path for you. It makes little difference if the caree is one of your parents. As a person progresses through disease or aging, their needs and wants change. If you have not been in the trenches with them lately, you really don’t have a thorough understanding of current conditions.

Try to let people help you if you are the one in charge. If you are not the one in charge, try to be truly helpful and get your facts straight before you suggest making changes. Everyone who wants to provide care should be motivated to provide the best caregiving experience, to provide an atmosphere of love and superior care. If those are really the goals, there is no room for power struggles. You need to let the ego take a back seat and focus on the best interest of the caree. Learning to work as a real team is in the best interest of all involved.

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