THE PERFECTIONIST DAUGHTER
by Herb Pearce
Two personality types who can feel particularly challenged in a caregiving relationship are Type One (the Perfectionist) and Type Nine (the Peacemaker.) For the last few years, I have been working with a Type One daughter caring for her Type Nine live-in mother.
Type One, the Perfectionist, feels that there’s a right way to do everything. Type Nine, the Peacemaker, had a tendency to be a bit lazy and to avoid conflict. You can begin to imagine the tension between them.
The mother owned the house and it was a challenge for years for my client to live in the same house as her mother during her aging process. A typical Type One, my client tended to be impatient, critical and at times inflexible with her mother. She found it hard to be a helper, as she always felt the inner pressure to do what was “right.”
I had coached this Perfectionist daughter for years to be more patient, to let her mother know her limits and desires in a respectful tone, and yet also try to relate with some flexibility and tolerance. I coached her to listen more and try to be more allowing with her mother’s memory loss, lack of order, tendency toward uncleanliness, and repetitive nature.
My client learned to walk away at times when she was too frustrated with her mother’s behavior, and always had the goal to have the gentler, caring, non abrupt manner that her Type Nine peacemaker mother needed.
It wasn’t perfect, but my client gradually felt more awareness, some control of her anger, and acceptance of the differences between the two of them. She also felt less guilt when she found herself adopting a harsher tone. I encouraged my client to remember the better times with her mother, to appreciate what was positive, and try to feed that back to her mother.
I was less than ideal, as both of them have felt unloved—they experience and show love in such different ways. My client has been able to see things more in perspective and feel more tolerant. She has been able to do a lot of right things about hiring other caregivers, taking her mother to appointments, taking her to dinner, enrolling her in a day care program, etc. As is her nature, her giving has been more in service than in attitude and emotional closeness.
Recently the mother died and my client felt some real grief, as well as relief, and I coached her to soften her guilt about not caring for her mother the way she had wished. The truth is that my client did do a lot for her mother, but didn’t particularly like her mother (her forgetfulness, lack of order and cleanliness, and at times doing things behind my client’s back.) I wish I could have met with her mother to coach both of them together as I felt protective toward both of them but I’ll relieve my own guilt too! I know that my work helped to make a difficult situation better than it would have been.
Note from a Caregiver’s Coach: It is not uncommon for a caregiver to dislike aspects of the person she is caring for. Sometimes it’s only human. It also may not be a problem if she can learn to be more accepting by learning to understand her loved one’s perspective and respect her needs. The best caregivers take their cue from their loved one. The more the person being cared for is in the driver’s seat, making choices about their life and health, the more empowered, healthy, and happy everyone will be.
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