"What are you doing, Carol?", said my friend Gladis. I was embarrassed to tell her that I was simply zoning out on purpose. The tiredness and depletion that occurs when you are the primary caregiver for a loved one is very different from other tiredness that we may experience in life. So, I was just being nothing... purposely! We caregivers are dealing with demands on all levels of the human experience. There's the physical exertion needed to pick up the slack left by our loved ones who through no fault of their own but still impactful to us are unable to contribute what they once did to their own daily living and that is very challenging. Then there is the financial reality that a person who is ill, no matter what the illness, costs extra. Then there is the mental toll. I have been gravely ill several times in my life and try though I might to be stoic, I was needy. It is a drain to be sick and it is a drain to take care of the sick. Check this out.
Depression, grief, anger, resentment, exhaustion and feelings of abandonment often do appear. As much as we love and respect our loved one, we are human and we falter and fall sometimes. Self-care is key. True self-care. Not the kind where we go out on the town, although that may be alright, it doesn't really deal with the above stated emotions at all. What caregivers need are small doses of rest and restful activities. There are many possibilities like arts and crafts, exercise, riding a bike, going on short but refreshing walks, a nice cup of tea for 15 minutes, to name just a few. I encourage you to partake in these small but restorative activities and the many others that I have not listed. Here's another link.
Another important thing to remember is that we are in charge of our thoughts and our words and the ones that we choose to allow in our world will have an effect on us. When you feel resentful that your whole life is being taken up with the care of someone else, sometimes together with parenting and a job outside the home, rant a little to a trusted friend, tell them exactly how deeply you wish that this was not your life. This is venting and it is important but don't become the bitter victim that starts to dwell in the resentment because that is not where we belong nor is it fair to our loved ones. It will simply make our lives worse. If we begin to dwell there, we need to seek therapy for our sake and our loved one's as well. These are the first steps in a spiraling down that can lead to abuse and neglect. It is the age old human way of making someone else the cause of all our problems and that justifies any kind of treatment at all.
In the nursing home, I saw really wonderful and caring aids and nurses who were over worked, under-payed and under-appreciated. They started out with a strong belief in what they were doing and a fierce love for the elderly and sick. Then their excellence got the attention of the administration and they were burdened with more and more duties. Burnout was soon to follow and the patients became the focus of that burnout. Resentment and impatience began to give a kind of permission to neglect and sometimes abuse the very people the love for whom made them want to follow this care giving career. In our own families this can happen too. There are abuse cases daily throughout the world and this is one reason. Of course there are people who start out with a less than honest motive but right now we are talking about the every day person who starts from a place of love and through not taking care of themselves, falls into this pattern. How to avoid this here.
What if you feel that we just can't do this? What if we are ladened with guilt about our belief that we are not able to be a caregiver? Be honest with yourself! As you know if you have read any of these blogs, I am an advocate for keeping our loved ones at home. I believe in it and I believe that society needs to help us do that but with the stresses of today and the medical measures that keep us alive even when ill thereby reducing the quality of life, we have to face the fact that sometimes an institution is the only way. With Alzheimer's, it's often the only way. If we have to put a loved one in a facility though, there are still responsibilities and heartache. We have to consider all angles of these decisions.
So, after you read this, if you are a caregiver, please go out and buy yourself some flowers or a good book and then stop for some coffee or tea and have some me time. Or do some strenuous physical activity. You deserve it! Know also that your service is the most noble and needed work on the planet. Second only to raising children. Whether the loved one is at home or in a facility where you are filling the gaps of their care, you are awesome in every way. Take care of yourself! We need more like you on this planet! Love link.
A Prayer for the Caregiver
by Bruce McIntyre
Unknown and often unnoticed, you are a hero nonetheless.
For your love, sacrificial, is God at his best.
You walk by faith in the darkness of the great unknown,
And your courage, even in weakness, gives life to your beloved.
You hold shaking hands and provide the ultimate care:
Your presence, the knowing, that you are simply there.
You rise to face the giant of disease and despair,
It is your finest hour, though you may be unaware.
You are resilient, amazing, and beauty unexcelled,
You are the caregiver and you have done well!
Poem: A Prayer for the Caregiver by Bruce McIntyre posted by A Place for Mom Staff