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One Breath at a Time
One Breath at a Time

As a caregiver to a loved one with COPD, Holly McBain offers a unique insight into the trials and tribulations this disease has on the patient, the caregiver, and immediate family. Over the course of time, Holly and her mother have encountered a wide swath of issues concerning the disease and its effects on the patient and how it also affects the caregiver.

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A Day in the Life of a Caregiver to a Parent

At first thought, you might think it would make it easier to be a caregiver if the patient is your parent. You already know one another, have a history together, and have established a rapport. Unfortunately, as with most things in life, nothing about it is as you might imagine. Being a caregiver to my mother has dramatically changed both our perceptions of each other (and some of it is probably not in a good way). 

The biggest issue to overcome (and we are still working on this daily) would be the relinquishing of authority. She still thinks of me as her child. She wants to be in charge of my life as well as her own. Much to her dismay, she is unable to do either one. I once complained to her about treating me like a child and she exclaimed “But you’re my child!” I retorted, “Yes, but I am also 48 years old and a mother of two and therefore am not a child.”

I cannot begin to tell you how many times she has interjected when there is a problem occurring with one or both of my boys. She tries to tell me how to parent them and like it or not and as much as I do love her, I would not want to mimic her parenting style. I lived through it and would not put my children through it. It’s not that she was bad or terrible parent, it’s just that I did not nor do not agree with some of the choices she made as a parent. So I consequently become upset when she tries to discipline them when I or my husband is home.

My mother can be very stubborn when she feels like it and can make those moments a living hell for all of us. I have to remind myself that she is unhappy at her situation and how her life is ending. I try to ignore or pass off her idiosyncrasies when I can but sometimes it is difficult, if not impossible, to do so.

These are issues that a regular caregiver (with no family connection) would never face. There is a very real and strong emotional struggle for a caregiver who is personally tied to the patient, whether it is through blood or marriage. Certainly a professional caregiver may become attached to their patient, but that lifelong bond is not there. There is no emotional tie that can cause hurt feelings. Every day these emotions are put to the test and can create friction due to the sensitive nature of the caregiver to parent relationship.

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About the Author

Since a COPD diagnosis in 2006, Holly has served as the caregiver for her mother Joan.