Lessening the Pressures of Being a Caretaker Who Happens to Have ADHD

Staying organized enough to take care of parents and family members can add a lot of pressure to your life.  One woman with ADD recently reached out for advice:

“Hi there. I have ADD and am not currently on meds. Going bonkers. Trying really hard to keep things together. I’m currently living with my parents and am the care-giver to my mom who has early stages of Alzheimers. I am the RP for my uncle who's in a nursing home. I'm doing the bill paying, shopping, cleaning, cooking, and taxing and taking Mom and uncle to doctor appointments - spread thin!  I am in a relationship as well. He and his son seem to have little respect for me. I currently feel like I'm tearing at the seams. I try to explain why their constant fidgeting when we are watching something drives me nuts... Can't focus worth a crap. His son goes out his way to bother me. I tell him to stop and he continues. My boyfriend doesn't correct him. I feel disrespected, and can't take anymore lately. So you have any suggestions?”

Without knowing all of the details, this woman’s description suggests that she is doing the very difficult task of caretaking for multiple people...but that no one is taking care of her.  A boyfriend who is disrespectful, and allows his kid to also be disrespectful, does not count as a caretaker in my mind.  The son going out of his way to bother her sounds like a power play - to demonstrate to her that his dad 'loves him more' than he does his (interloper) girlfriend and will take the son’s side.  She shouldn’t, in my mind, put up with that s%#t.  Very nicely, and very calmly, she might point out to her boyfriend that it should not be about taking sides, but about sticking up for them both.

She deserves respect...that’s part of any healthy relationship…and if one doesn’t get it, then the relationship really should end.  But she has a role to play in receiving that respect and will only get it if two conditions are met - she asks for it (demands it, really) and if she is with a person who is capable of demonstrating respect.  Whether this particular boyfriend is that person is not clear.  Her situation is complicated slightly by the fact that she is the caretaker of both people and household – a position which is easy for others to take for granted and which, for some, diminishes how interesting she is in others’ eyes.  I know, for example, that when I changed from professional woman to household and child caretaker I became (over time) less interesting to my husband.  All the more reason to stick up for herself and demand both respect and appreciation for all that she does.

As a first step, this woman should seek a better support network.  That might be other members of her family, or friends or, perhaps, even a different person to date.  She can also seek ways to pamper herself so that she gets a break from the constant pressure of taking care of mother and uncle.  What that looks like for people is different - some like to take a quiet walk in the woods as their break, while others wish to escape with their friends and do something fun.  She will know what works for her, and should give herself permission to take regular (and much needed) breaks.

In addition, starting from a place of untreated ADHD means she is making it as hard as possible for herself.  At a minimum I would suggest that she incorporate a very regular exercise routine (4-5 days a week).  This will lift her spirits, make her healthier, give her more energy to deal with the necessities of daily life, and also help her better manage ADHD symptoms, particularly improving focus immediately following the exercise.  In addition, she may wish to consider whether taking meds might help.  Worst case scenario is that she doesn’t find one that works for her, in which case she is back to where she is right now.  Best case scenario is that she does find one that helps (well over 70% do) and taking the meds makes all the organizing she is doing easier and less burdensome.

To find out more about the many ways that one can improve the management of ADHD symptoms I referred her to my online treatment guide and, in particular, the free download of chapters from The Couple’s Guide to Thriving with ADHD.  Those chapters include the latest on treating adult ADHD.

It sounds as if this woman is doing the best she can, but is in the very difficult position of family caretaker, all the way around.  As it is for all family caretakers – whether it is kids or parents one is responsible for - it should be easier to manage if she remembers she must put taking care of herself at (or near) the top of her list.  Caretaking is not just about other people.