Are you a caregiver? How long have you been the primary caregiver for your loved one? How are you doing? Are you able to meet the needs of you and your loved one? If you answered yes, I know you are probably not being honest; for no one can meet everyone’s need. And if you are a caregiver, the person who is not getting care is most often – you.
I know who you are because I have spent most of my life being a caregiver. Caregivers don’t start out with that title. Most of us don’t go to school to learn how to be one and we wouldn’t choose to be a caregiver. We are thrust into the position and most of us take on this job because we love the person we are caring for. Some of us are Type-A personalities, who are efficient and enjoy organizing, executing, and most of all helping others. All these are wonderful traits unless you do them in excess. And then you can find yourself being a totally different person – often not liking who you have become. Does any of this sound familiar?
You may be suffering from Caregiver Burnout. What is caregiver burnout?
Caregiver burnout is a condition characterized by physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. It typically results from a person neglecting their own physical and emotional health because they are focused on caring for an ill, injured or disabled loved one. This can lead to physical and psychological wear and tear which can endanger both the caregiver and care receiver.
Caring for a loved one is tough work. As your loved one requires more and more care, you may feel tired to the point of exhaustion yet you scold yourself for not being more loving, patient, better organized, not working harder, or not having saved more money for a time like this. The guilt alone can be overwhelming and debilitating.
Providing this constant loving care is difficult and made more difficult because your loved may be feeling some of the same feelings you are: fear, frustration, and resentment at the changes in their lifestyle – all demonstrated by being irritable, demanding, and angry. If you don’t get enough rest and help; your feelings of anger, depression, resentment and fear, along with theirs make for a combustible and combatable environment. And that environment is not healthy for either of you.
Your role in your loved ones life has changed and often this may mean changes in their day to day living. This can vary from getting friends, family or aides to come in and assist to finding a long term care facility. We must remember these living arrangements are to insure that the person you love is getting the care they need and in the quality and quantity you want for them. Making these decisions are probably the most difficult ones you will ever make and it is a decision that spans many emotions.
Ask yourself if making this decision will make your loved one more comfortable, be safer, and provide life-giving resources? Don’t let guilt factor your decision but do spend time seeking guidance from doctors, counselors, and God.
CONFESSION: I failed at this when my mother was ill. I did not know how to be a caregiver that asked for help. I felt like I was the only one who could help my mother and my mother, either from embarrassment or not wanting to intrude on their lives, refused help from others except for Thad and I. I thought I was respecting her wishes but in essence I was denying her good care and the ability to still have people surround her. It was a situation that led me to be an efficient caregiver but not the loving daughter she deserved. I was so afraid that if I let my emotions show, I would curl up in a crying heap in my bed, unable to help her. I kept all my feelings tightly wrapped and threw myself into “the job”. I was lost amidst the frustration, fear, exhaustion, and sheer magnitude of the role of caregiving and balancing my life as wife, mother and business owner. While I was an efficient caregiver I failed her as a daughter and I missed the intimacy of that relationship which would have provided closure and closeness for both of us. To this day, it is my one regret.
It was only towards the end of her life here on earth I finally realized that God didn’t want me to do this journey with mother alone. God had placed people around me and my mom who were willing (if asked) to share the load. My brother and his wife would come every other Friday evening and share a meal or just a TV show with my Mom (she was living with us) so that Thad and I had a night out with friends. A friend who worked with me in my business and also cleaned houses knew how my daughter, husband and I had not taken any time to be a family and go on an outing. Because my mother would not allow me to hire an aide, my friend offered to come in with the pretense of cleaning my house (which she did) and “visit with my mom, too”. This gave us a day to take our 10 year old daughter and her friend to Lion Country Safari. We had so much fun that day without the responsibility and worry of meeting my mom’s every need. I felt almost normal as we spent the day together. It was such a gift to me and my family and one that 27 years later I am still blessed by the thoughtfulness.
Three clues that you need to call in the Calvary.
- Are you finding it difficult to continue hands-on care for your loved one?
- Do you feel emotionally drained or chronically tired?
- Does your elder need rehabilitation or specialized supervision?
So, is it time to call in the Calvary?
Calling in the Calvary can happen at any time. But why wait till you get to the point that you are unhealthy mentally and physically?
The true time to call in the Calvary is when you first realize you have taken on the role of a caregiver for your loved one. When you first adopt this new role is when you seek help from family and friends, church, and local resources to provide respite care and assistance.
There are many areas or levels of care within the Caregiver’s Calvary. They are family, friends, respite care, aides, Assisted Living, Nursing Homes and Hospice. Each has its time and place depending on who you are, what you are able to do (physically, emotionally and proximity to your loved one) and the person you love and their circumstances.
Don’t wait till you are exhausted, depleted, and sick. Don’t wait till you have become solely the care giver and are no longer the daughter, son, husband, wife, sister, brother, friend. Those roles are necessary for both the caregiver and care receiver.
The time to call in the Caregiver’s Calvary is now. Talk with your loved one even before medical mayhem strikes. Share insights, wishes, tears and fears so that you can not only survive it but find God’s message behind the mayhem.
And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose. Romans 8:28
Thank you for reading my post. If you have found it encouraging please consider liking, commenting or sharing it. Feel free to even re-blog – may these words take flight!
I have additional insights I’d love to share with you found in the pages of my debut book: Surviving Medical Mayhem – Laughing When It Hurts. To order a copy or learn more go to my website at www.lorettaschoen.com
Blessings for Health & Wellness.