A Caregiver Sets Her Boundaries: A Daughter’s Story

affordable home care services for seniors help for senior caregivers home help for the elderly home assistance eldercare at home care in Minnesota at home caregiversIf you’ve ever been to a market in the Caribbean, you know the drill.  You start talking to the guy who wants to give you the necklace, the next thing you know, you’ll be handing over money for the necklace and a host of other trinkets and souvenirs you never wanted.

In senior companion care, we call the solution to this setting boundaries.  For those taking care of elderly parents, setting boundaries can be one of the most difficult parts of the caregiving journey.

We all want to be there all the time for our parents, but for the sandwich generation—those who are caring for their children as well as their parents—it can be challenging to be everything to everybody.  Because caregiver burnout is a serious concern, it’s important for caregivers to create time for themselves and to focus on their own physical, mental, and spiritual health.  When a caregiver ends up with a health crisis, more often than not, the care receiver can no longer stay at home.

Two weeks ago, we shared the story of caregiver Jody, who struggled with coming to terms with her mother’s dementia.  Today, we learn from Jody about the importance of setting boundaries:


When my mother had her stroke, she wound up in a nursing home.  It was intimidating for my mom because there were a lot of people working there who she couldn’t understand.  There were also a lot of male nurses, and she really had a hard time with that.

When she came home and started needing home health aides, she was not comfortable with the people who were coming.  My sisters and I tried everything to get her into a nursing home, but my dad refused.  That’s how we girls ended up falling in line to help.  We would be going over all the time to help out with things.  My dad, though, refused to get any outside help.  He didn’t want anyone else coming, and he would not put my mom in the nursing home.

This took its toll on us, the daughters.  How long can you handle working, running over to take care of your mom every day, then also taking care of your own home?

We finally started pulling back, each daughter going only once a week.  We were exhausted.  We put it back on my dad, who was the one not wanting any outside help.


For some seniors, accepting outside help is intimidating and an admittance of defeat, but they may not see their children coming over at all times of the day as accepting help.  We see this with our clients and their children.  Mary, for example, cancels homemaking help because “My daughter will come over and do it.”  But the daughter calls us and says, “No, please, send someone to do her laundry!”

For caregivers in the squeeze, setting clear boundaries is one step toward creating a balanced and healthy life for yourself.  If you are taking care of elderly parents and feel on the verge of burnout, you may need to set boundaries.  By setting boundaries, you’re not abandoning your parents but are encouraging them to reach out for assistance from other viable avenues.  Not only will this free up quality time to spend with your parents, but it will also prevent resentment from building.

Julie Ellingson, LSW

November 25, 2011


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Comments (2)


  1. Theresa Humphry says:

    Thank you for this helpful advise. My sister and I are in torment for our mother whom we’ve had to put in a nursing home. She cries out for us to take her home everyday. I’m raising a grandchild. I’ve had him since birth and he is 15 moths old now. There is no time for me anymore.

  2. Julie says:

    You are welcome. Is your mother in a skilled facility for permanent placement or for short term rehab? Let’s hope over time that she adjusts accordingly. It’s very difficult to set boundaries when you get the negative backlash. It would probably be good for you to set a specific day(s)/time(s) when your mother can expect you to visit her. Set up whatever works for you and your schedule. Then stick to it. If you cave, then she will continue to bother you about it because her behavior is being negatively reinforced. (she puts up a fuss, you give in and visit her). Most folks caring for elderly parents are doing what they can. Feel good about what you can do and do not feel guilty about what you cannot do. We all have our limits.

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