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The Detoxing of Caregivers

Detoxing Caregivers: The Connection with Addictions

It’s Monday evening at 7:30pm. We were scheduled to be on our way to JFK International Airport to stay overnight at the local Marriott Hotel – for an early morning flight to Florida. We were truly looking forward to this 5 day escape – but instead, I am sitting in a Starbucks 90 miles away from NYC.

My wife’s parents live on Long Island. My Father-in-law is 90, my Mother-in-Law is 85. They have lived in the same house for over 60 years. About three years ago, we noticed the beginning of a downward spiral regarding health and independence. Over the last year that downward trajectory has accelerated.

Since Christmas Day, my wife has been staying at her Parents house with her sister. My Father-in-Law is not in a good state – his health is not well. As we were talking this morning about “what should we do regarding our planned trip” – it became clear early in our discussion that – although we were both very much looking forward to the respite – cancelling the trip was the: ‘right thing to do’.

This has not been our first exposure to Caregiving, therefore, we know about the reality of cancelling plans. (In October of this year, my 97 year old Mother passed away. She was a little Irish gal – who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 92. Until the end of her life, she recognized us, engaged with us and loved us).

Yesterday, at the gym, I was listening to an Audio-Book on: “The Benefits of Blogging”. Obviously, the first recommendation is: “ to have something to say or add”. I have a small Private Practice – with a focus on Adult Development. I started to think of my research interests in: aging, Alzheimer’s disease and addictions. I also started to think about the exhausted, frustrated, trapped, angry, sad, bitter and scared adults that I have seen in my office. Some of those individuals are addressing marital problems or career roadblocks. Some of the individuals are addressing health issues or concerns about raising adult children. However, the group that I see the most in my practice are the Adult Caregivers of Parents or Individuals, and their family members, that are wrestling with the wrath of addictions. As I started to think more about these two groups – I started to realize – although they are traveling different avenues – there are a number of crossroads or similarities they definitely share.

For adults addressing patterns of addiction – they typically are resistant and/or worn-down, in addition to being, exhausted, scared, overwhelmed- and unsure of the future. In the Addiction Field, there is an emphasis on: first, admitting there is a problem and then addressing it through treatment – for example, detoxing, rehabilitation and joining a Fellowship/Support network for follow-up, care and recovery.

The Adult Caregivers for Aging Parents that present themselves in my Practice are also: “resistant and/or worn-down, in addition to being, exhausted, scared, overwhelmed – and unsure of the future”. And then I started to think: “wouldn’t it be great if Adult Caregivers had treatment options that included: “detoxing, rehabilitation and joining a Fellowship/Support network for follow-up, care and recovery”.

So that is what I am advocating for: “The Detoxing of Caregivers”. As Practitioners, Program Developers and Policy Makers – we need to take the lead in creating new frontiers and creative solution-based opportunities to provide presence and care for the struggling Caregiver (and if you have ever held this role – you know – all Caregiver’s struggle). As advocates, we need to do this for my wife, her sister and the millions of family members that have joined a Club – they never wanted to be a member of.

Not going to Florida was the right move.

L.T. Force, Ph.D.

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