“When will this end? This is all too much! I didn’t expect all of this!” I whined while on a call with my father’s attorney. I couldn’t whine too much because the minutes were adding up at several hundred dollars an hour!
I received a generous acknowledgment of caregiving from this elder law attorney.
Imagine you are walking in a forest and you see an acorn. You bend over to pick it up. As you continue on your way, you feel the weight growing heavier and heavier. Finally, you can’t take another step. Looking over your shoulder you see that you are carrying the whole oak tree.
We caregivers are a stubborn lot. This helps us persist when times are tough. Caregiving isn’t rocket science! How hard can it be? But when we keep trying to the detriment of our own well-being, what good are we? While caregiving doesn’t require a physics degree, it does require the fortitude of an elite mountain climber. It takes commitment and dedication. It is risky to reach the top of caregiving’s Denali or Everest. The rewards are great, IF we survive.
To survive, we must pay attention to our symptoms. We can’t keep plodding on. Even experienced mountain climbers return to camp at a lower level after heeding their body’s cries with altitude sickness. We’ll either die or do something we’ll regret. Elderly spousal caregivers have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Get Help If You’re Experiencing The Following Symptoms
Don’t let these symptoms spiral out of control.
Sleepless with Worry Are
- you unable to get a night’s rest? Is your mind racing with worry? One way to reduce the number of things racing through your mind is to get them out on paper. Write down your worrisome thoughts in a notebook kept at your bedside. TIP: Use a night-writer pen for convenience and to avoid the brightness of a flashlight.
- There will be days and even weeks when your caregiver stress turns into hopelessness. When this will end? When will I be able to get on with the life I put on hold? As your friends stop calling, texting, or visiting, you feel hopelessly trapped.
Short-Tempered and Angry
- Unchecked stress will take you to your breaking point. If you find yourself losing your cool constantly, it’s time to take a step back. Look at your options (see the following section), before you do something you’ll regret.
- It’s no secret, caregiving is demanding. You want to do your best, but sometimes, you feel it’s not enough. Guilt looms overhead and you’re pulled between anger and hopelessness. Eventually, depression creeps in. Life is not looking good.
- Remember that acorn? When you feel the world’s weight upon your shoulders for too long, you may find yourself forgetting and growing disoriented. There’s a name for this. It’s called caregiver dementia and it strikes an estimated 100 million caregivers worldwide. Fortunately, it’s one of the few reversible forms of dementia.
Options For Care
Over the last 20 years, greater awareness of family caregivers’ needs, has created a continuum of care offerings, from adult day services to palliative care. Remember, even elite mountain climbers have to return to lower altitude and rely on their support teams before trying again. Below are suggestions for giving family caregivers the opportunity to take care of themselves.
- In-Home Care: This option is ideal for families’ loved ones who are homebound or prefer more personalized care. A care professional provides companionship, meals, help with toileting, bathing and light house cleaning. Half- to full-day options are available including 24-hour care. Although called “in-home” care, sometimes family members may coordinate an outing with the care professional and loved one.
- Support group: Just as your loved one needs companionship and a change of pace, so do you. When you start feeling hopeless and alone, enjoy the company of like-minded people. Ask local organizations for referrals to caregiver support groups in your area. Support groups meet weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. If you have a fast enough Internet connection, you can also attend virtually using Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype.
Start researching and trying out these and other care options before a crisis occurs. Set aside an hour every two weeks to do a little bit of research. Begin with referrals from caregiver friends or a health care provider. You can even visit your friend’s home while the in-home caregiver is there to see and feel how this option works for them. Then start using the services until you find one that feels comfortable for your loved one and you. Give your loved one time to adjust to having someone in the house. This way, when you have an emergency or just need a break, all you’ll need to do is call.
These care options will help reduce the five symptoms of caregiver stress. Don’t let an oak tree weigh you down during your walk in the forest. Enjoy a change of pace by using these services now before a crisis occurs.
To learn more about in-home care, contact us today.