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Parent’s illness tough to deal with

Hi, Carolyn: I have an aging father with a health condition that is likely terminal, with few treatment options.

I live far away, and my half siblings don’t make much of an effort to see him.

I’ve been turning myself inside out, using all my spare vacation time to see them (the only thing that seems to help their spirits), to the exclusion of visits with my husband’s family and of time for my husband and me alone.My parents refuse to move closer because my dad is inordinately attached to his doctors at home

How do I do right by my parents and give them the time with my husband and me that they so enjoy? How do I do right by my relationship and not make my life all about my parents’ needs? How do I do right by myself as I increasingly feel exhausted by my father’s journey? – L.

I’m sorry – it’s a tough phase of life regardless of location and resources.

The first and most important step is to redefine “do right by.” The new version has to account for the limits on your energy, flexibility, options and the number of hours in a day. You cannot fix this or make it OK. You can only be loving and present.

“Present” isn’t a typo: You can be there without traveling. Call, video chat, send care packages, handle any chores for them that you can by phone or online, keep your half sibs updated (what they do with the information is their business), use whatever resourcefulness you can muster.

Another key step: letting go of the idea that you bear sole responsibility for lifting your parents’ spirits. They are adults, they have chosen not to move closer to you, and so they deserve some respect for their autonomy.

Think of the near future as a phase where you allot X time daily, Y monthly, to this crisis. Decide X and Y in cooperation with your husband – and interspersed with alone and couple time – to keep that crucial relationship fed. Such blunt thinking may seem odd now, but it will reward you later in pre-empted future regrets.


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