Almost every time I speak at a conference for caregivers, someone mentions the difficulties their parents have in spending any money. Their parents have saved on themselves for products that could increase the quality of their life and perhaps even make life a bit easier for them. However, for those parents who were brought up during the depression, there is a general consciousness about their spending habits.

Unfortunately, we grew up under their beliefs as children. And now as caregivers to our parents, many of us get to observe the stubbornness our parents display when it comes to paying out of pocket for items that could save them ill health and other medical problems. Some examples of this might be buying grab bars for the bathtub or shower and near the toilet; rubber mats to go under area rugs to keep the rugs in place so our parents don’t fall and break something; nutritious foods and supplements necessary for them to remain strong…and healthier. And while they may not have huge savings, they still have money saved, but they still don’t want to spend it.

And we all know that each of us has self-destructive habits but what about our loved ones we are caring for. We work so hard to advocate and care for them and then they fight with us because they don’t want to take medications. These are the very medications that can assist them in living a better quality of life.

God forbid something does happen to them from these types of situations. They then want the government to pay all the benefits and we must care even harder for them because they are now in need of more care. So how do we handle this type of a situation?

As their carers we quickly rally and try with great difficulty to navigate through the systems on their behalf. At times, don’t you ever feel that there is a double entendre here and we are at times enabling them because they have consciously and at times stubbornly chosen to not do the right things for themselves?

This is becoming more and more prevalent with caregivers and it is a need that we must put into the proper perspective. More importantly, we must begin effectively explaining this to our parents so that they spend on items, products or medications that will enhance the quality of their life and well-being.

While I am first to advocate for the caregivers and their loved ones, I feel it is equally as important to help shift the consciousness of this disregard for the system. As aging boomers, if we all expect to be taken care of when we are careless like our parents are, how will the system be able to kick in and truly support us.. At the same time we get sick fighting for our rights from within the system that we are all entitled to, when do we become more socially responsive and how do we assist our parents in shifting their own perspectives as well?

All of my life, my parents drilled it into my mental computer that they work hard and save their money for their retirement. Their retirement comes and they still don’t spend their money. Who will get their money? The answer to this is simple.. most of us who are now their caregivers. But, wouldn’t it be wise to have them spend a small proportion of these monies on their own well-being?

There are no cut and dry, simple solutions. However, it is up to us to take responsibility in communicating these issues to our parents, slowly… one step at a time… It’s time that we become more mindful of these attitudes that we have incorporated into our own belief systems because they may be running our own lives. It is time to take responsibility to be socially conscious about these needs for our futures.

Gail R. Mitchell


  • Ms. Mitchell began her full-time caregiving experience in the early eighties when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Later on she became the primary caregiver for her father, along with her mother who had become critically ill from burnout prior to her dad’s passing. In recent years, she cared for several friends with AIDS while continuing to care for her mother and actively providing support, information, referrals and resources for caregivers.

    Gail's leadership on the Internet and her success with Empowering Caregivers led her to found National Organization For Empowering Caregivers (NOFEC) INC in 2001.

    Prior to founding NOFEC, she created the iVillageHealth Chat: Empowering Caregivers, which she hosted for over 5 years. Within a month of hosting she created Empowering Caregivers: in 1999 as a resource for caregivers around the globe. Over three million visitors have frequented the website.

    She has presented at national and international care-related conferences and programs and has been a keynote speaker for many programs as well.

    Ms Mitchell has assisted thousands of caregivers online and offline in ways to empower themselves in their roles in caring for loved ones.

    For a list of clients and/or her resume, please contact

    Gail's articles have been published in many venues nationally and in Canada. Presently, she is a member of American Society on Aging and National Quality Caregivers Coalition.

    Gail has discovered that there is life after caregiving: She has become a successful ceramic artist and installation artist. She created Crystal Illumination Art to bring the transformative quality of illumination, light and color to the human experience and celebrate its ability to inspire, heal and nourish our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being.