September 2015. Originally copyrighted and posted in "Type for Life" by the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL. Used with permission.

I am at the age where many of us are struggling with caring for our parents, either from long distance or from up close and personal. Recently the mother of one of my long-time friends (of 50+ years) suffered a health crisis. Other friends have chimed in offering long distance support.

Here's one of the emails she got (with names removed) from our friend Elizabeth, an ESFJ. Elizabeth, who has a Master's degree in audiology, was her parents' primary caregiver for 18 years. I have Elizabeth's permission to print it.

"…thanks for keeping us in the loop…I'm glad your mom is home and I can only imagine how hard that was for your dad and your mom to be apart that long [first time in 67 years]. I guess it is a testimony to something…no matter how cranky our parents can get with each other (and mine certainly did get that way at times) they are anchors for each other.

I'm sure your mom is facing a lot. I know there were plenty of times I didn't understand my mother's lack of enthusiasm or even interest in doing things that might have made her life "better" …I think at some point I finally got a glimpse that she had lost so much of her life as SHE wanted it that "improvements" weren't her focus.

I would sometimes have to tell her that if she didn't have the strength to help get out of her wheel chair that I would no longer be able to care for her at home…it was true and sometimes motivating to her.

In the end, I had to accept the fact that Mama wasn't really working to get better or to make it easier for me. She was on her own path and not one that I always loved even though I always loved her.

I remember clearly the day I called my brother in California in tears and told him I couldn't do it any longer…Mama had spit out her daily pills…I was so frustrated at what I saw as her non-compliance. The truth was that she was done and I just wasn't programmed to get that message because of my own plan for her.

I think it is hard for us in our good health and relative youth to imagine what life might look like from their perspectives…I think Mama was so depressed with all she couldn't do that she didn't see the glimmer of what might be possible. It is a hard place for them and hard for us caregivers.

I totally get the frustration and the difficult part you and [your sisters] are sharing. I literally spent the first five years of my caregiving being mad…mad at my sister for not helping and mad that I couldn't reshape my parents into the people I needed them to be.

I didn't like the realities of the caregiving…I fought how hard it was. It wasn't until year 6 that I regrouped and figured out that caregiving was what I was doing and once I really embraced that it was easier…and even though it seems like it will go on forever, it won't…"

I am blessed with these friends who live their empathy, who are willing to readjust their thinking, and who provide love to those around them.