How to care for relatives (and for yourself, too)
Your problem: ‘I’m caring for relatives and have no time for me’
‘My father-in-law passed away a year ago and my husband decided my mother-in-law, who has trouble walking due to her hip-replacement, should come to live with us. I agreed as she’s been so good to us over the years, helping out when our sons, now 13 and 15 were younger.
My husband does a lot but I end up helping her with everyday things like getting in and out of the shower and getting dressed – I also ferry her around to appointments. I also run around after the children who need lifts and have to keep on top of the housework. All this, combined with trying to keep up with my own business (I work part-time in PR) means I never have time to relax.
I am always exhausted and this has led to rows with my husband. I am starting to resent my mother-in-law. What can I do?’
Lucy’s solution: Create family boundaries
Being a carer for an elderly person is often exhausting, thankless work. You need to create boundaries so that not only do you have time during the day to keep up with your business, but you have more time to yourself too. It will be tricky at first until the family gets used to the idea, but these things will work.
1 Create a rota
This includes allocating to your teenagers some tasks linked to looking after your mother-in-law. This will mean she gets to see her grandchildren more, plus they gain useful exposure to the elderly, and get to care for someone other than themselves.
Your partner needs to be part of this rota, too, for the times when he’s not at work. In particular, he needs to be your mother-in-law’s main carer for at least one evening a week and for some of the weekend.
2 Plan a regular weekly activity for yourself
It could be catching up with a friend, joining a choir or a Pilates class – but it has to be just for you. This commitment must not be broken. So, if your husband has to work late or entertain a client, he must be responsible for arranging ‘cover’. He might bribe the kids or ask your cleaner to help out, but what this means is that he gets to truly experience the value of the help you currently give for free.
3 Timetable family social evenings
Schedule in an evening for your immediate family to socialise, with a paid carer coming in. And co-opt other mums into collecting your kids from the after-school clubs.
4 Treat ‘me-time’ with respect
As a result, others will understand that it is important for you too, and will place more value on you when you are around and in the role of ‘carer’. Recharging your batteries means you’ll have more energy and are calmer.