Issue 12 | 01.24.2019 | Holland, MI
Holland Weekly’s Feature Article: When The Roles Reverse: A Daughter’s Take On Taking Care of Dad
Holland Weekly’s Recipe Of The Week: Game Day Barbecue Sweet Potato Fries
Daughter or Caregiver? Social Worker or Boss?
By Jennifer Heckendorn
January 24, 2019
As a daughter, I wanted to take care of my parents, even if I didn’t know what that entailed. My father tells a story of me at age four, holding his hand and looking up and saying, “Daddy, I am going to be a nurse when I grow up so I can take care of you.”
So when my father asked me if he could move into my home in Michigan from his apartment in Indiana, I didn’t think much about how that might impact my life. I wanted to help, and I knew things had not been easy since my mother’s death. He couldn’t seem to decide where he belonged. After discussing it with my husband, we decided it was okay and that it might be nice for our three children to have their grandfather around. And it was okay and nice for a time.
My father started to have some health issues. He wasn’t exactly a healthy person to begin with, but he seemed to start to decline about a year after moving in with us. I went to appointments with him; I encouraged him to take his medication properly and tried to be what I thought was a caring and responsible daughter.
At that time, I would not have characterized myself as a caregiver. I was working on my master’s degree in geriatric social work, and I felt like I was well-equipped to understand his needs. Perhaps I did understand his needs, but I didn’t understand mine. And I certainly didn’t understand that his needs and his wishes may not match. I didn’t know that this would be the beginning of my role confusion.
I felt like I was living a double life. But unlike the code names in the movie, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I am only one person, not four double agents. My family and friends referred to me as the daughter/caregiver/boss/social worker for my 85-year-old father. Depending on the day or the person you asked, I could’ve been any one of those at any given moment. You might say, Aren’t you always a daughter? And my answer would be, Yes, but it hasn’t always felt that way.
In my eyes, caregiver has always meant someone who is more hands on. As for boss, it’s not a role I identified with, but there were people, including my dad, who at times referred to me as such. As for social worker, I am a therapist to older adults and the people who love and care for them.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, “A caregiver—sometimes called an informal caregiver—is an unpaid individual (for example, a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor) involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks.” By this definition, I am not a caregiver because I do not assist with bathing, grooming, dressing, toileting, etc. What I assist with are called instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). These include managing finances, medications, medical appointments. My dad probably would not describe me as his caregiver, just his daughter who helps him “take care of things.”
During a doctor’s appointment with my dad, a nurse wanted to instruct me on how to clean and care for my father’s catheter. I immediately stated, “I’m sorry, but I’m not that kind of daughter,” which meant, I must not be a caregiver. I knew then that boundaries were necessary and that I had limitations as to what I could do or was willing to do. Since I couldn’t participate in the physical side of his care with any comfort, I threw myself into managing his medications and appointments and his overall well-being. Here is where I became the boss. Again, I did not understand his wishes or perspective. He saw me as his youngest child, not someone telling him what he should do.
I struggled with trying to find some balance. I didn’t like being characterized as a boss, and knew that it was time to relinquish that role. My father did not want me to be his boss at all. He can make his own decisions and did so even when I thought they were the wrong decisions. I saw it as my duty to enforce what the doctors said was best for him. We butted heads on more than one occasion. I was miserable and burned out and he was irritated.
My father could no longer live in my home due to his physical limitations with stairs, so I thought it would be best for both of us if he moved into a senior apartment. He agreed, sort of. He went along with this decision, but it became evident that he was resentful and unhappy. So, he moved out. He went back to Indiana to live with my brother and didn’t even bother to tell me. Eventually he came back.
In my practice as a social worker today, I counsel many people with caregiver stress and burnout. One of the first things we do is try to figure out the caregiver’s role and if this role is sustainable. Some caregivers don’t have other family members to help or cannot afford additional help, so together we must find community resources to allow the caregiver a break to be who they are and to take on the role that best suits them and the one they are caring for.
Sometimes it feels selfish to have other people provide care. Why did my discomfort in providing physical care outweigh my dad’s need for assistance? There are plenty of daughters, sons, spouses who do provide that type of care and somehow do it without being mortified. Rob Lowe, the actor, once penned an article that talked about his role as caregiver for his mother. He said, “When you’re caring for a loved one, there’s nothing you won’t do (or sacrifice) to give them as much comfort and peace of mind as you can possibly provide.” That made me feel selfish, but then I thought again about my dad’s wishes. He didn’t want me providing physical care anymore than I did. He often introduced me as his “baby” (I am the youngest of six kids) when he wasn’t telling people I was his boss. So, I pay for other people to provide that care, as I am sure Rob Lowe does as well.
The role of boss that I had created for myself with my father was unsustainable because his wishes weren’t being taken into consideration. When I started listening to him and what he wanted, I was able to let go of frustrations. I still offer advice as a geriatric social worker, but he doesn’t always listen, and I accept that and even pick up the pieces when his decisions aren’t the best.
So, I’m not daughter/caregiver/boss/social worker. I found a way back to the role of “daughter who helps take care of things,” and that is a role that we can both live with.
Jennifer Heckendorn earned her MSW at the University of Michigan. She lives and works in Ann Arbor, and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barbecue Sweet Potato Fries
By Kathleen Schenck
January 24, 2019
Freaking fantastic finger food for the game, this is one of my favorite recipes. These oven fries are done in a half hour, are healthier than their deep-fat fried cousins at the diner, and the flavor combination of sweet potato and barbecue sauce is superb. I use a spicy barbecue sauce for a little kick. Keep your expectations in check when it comes to crispness. Any recipe online you find that claims these gems will be crispy just like diner fries is lying. But they do crisp enough with the help of cornstarch.
Prep: 8 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes (oven time may vary)
Sauce and flip time: 2 minutes tops
Yield: Enough for 2 hungry adults who can eat half a pound of sweet potatoes each (yes, please!)
1 pound sweet potato, which translates to 1 large sweet potato or 2 smaller sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika (optional)
Pinch salt and black pepper
Drizzle of canola oil (a couple tablespoons)
Drizzle of your favorite barbecue sauce (a couple more tablespoons)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub sweet potato(es). (I leave the peel on, but you can peel them if you like.) Slice into 1/4 inch strips that resemble French Fries. Place in a bowl and sprinkle the cornstarch while mixing and turning the potatoes with your hands so each one is covered. Let sit for 15 seconds to give the cornstarch a chance to absorb. Then add salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika, if using. Mix. Drizzle canola oil and turn again so each potato is covered. Place on an ungreased metal cookie sheet. *Very important: Do not crowd the potatoes on the sheet. Use a second sheet if necessary. I’ve included a picture below to illustrate about the right ratio of fries to sheet.* Roast until light brown, about 10 minutes. Take out of oven and flip with spatula. Return to oven. Roast until the potatoes are brown and crisp, approximately another 5 minutes. Take out and place in bowl. Drizzle generously with barbecue sauce and use a large spoon to turn the hot potatoes, ensuring each one gets coated. Return to oven and roast a final 5 minutes. Serve immediately with barbecue sauce or mayo mixed with ketchup on the side. Also makes a nice vegan meal paired with black beans and rice.
Have a recipe to share? Email us at email@example.com and help your neighbor cook something different tonight!
Sylvia Reads The Stars
Week of January 24, 2019
Aquarius Jan 20 – Feb 18
It’s your season, Aquarian! What is your birthday wish? Now what is your birthday wish for the rest of us?
Pisces Feb 18 – Mar 20
Oh, the creativity stored inside your brain is aching to get some air! Get crafty with it.
Aries Mar 20 – Apr 20
You’re so good at starting things, Aries. Start some Puckish trouble. No one gets hurt, and no police need to be called. But maybe change the words to your rival’s fight song, and sing loud and proud.
Taurus Apr 20 – May 21
I think the snow makes you snore even more.
Gemini May 21 – Jun 21
JFK was a famous Gemini. What quality of his do you see in yourself? Strengthen it this week, and share it with the rest of us.
Cancer Jun 21 – Jul 23
Think about something from your childhood that you miss. See if you can’t recreate it in some form today, whether it be a mood or a mood ring.
Leo Jul 23 – Aug 23
Your fellow Michigander and Leo, Madonna, blazed a new path for women in music. Pay homage to someone you admire this week for doing something fresh…and a little daring.
Virgo Aug 23 – Sep 23
When’s the last time you memorized something? A poem? A song? The Periodic Table? Pick something and start anew. Then show it off.
Libra Sep 23 – Oct 23
Make a secular alter in a corner of your home. It really only has to make sense to you. If you feel a change coming on, place a picture of a snake shedding its skin.
Scorpio Oct 23 – Nov 22
Keep listening to and following that still, small voice inside. When people around you tell you that you cannot possibly accomplish what they see as outlandish goals, grin broadly, and get back to that voice.
Sagittarius Nov 22 – Dec 23
Let your playful spirit shine. A practical joke may be a bit much for the workplace, but do something to lighten these short dark days.
Capricorn Dec 23 – Jan 20
You’re finally out of the spotlight, Cap. Take a snooze on the couch–but not one of those naps where you fall asleep in the daytime and wake up in the nighttime. Those mess you up!
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