Are you a current or past caretaker of a loved one? If the answer is yes, I applaud you! If it is no, you will most likely either be a caretaker in the future, or you will need one. Being a caretaker brings up many feelings. How you feel is not “bad”. We live in a broken world, there is much dysfunction. We are products of our upbringing, our genetics, and of the choices and situations we find ourselves in as adults.
I often moved between guilt, resentment, anger and sorrow. Lewy wreaked havoc with all lives. My Dad couldn’t walk any more. No need to dance around the issues now because he didn’t seem to know what was going on.
Did I have it so bad?
I did not suffer physical or sexual abuse at the hand of my parents. I don’t want to be trite or simplistic about those situations. Maybe a loved one has become violent and abusive due to their disease, or perhaps your own life is so stressful, you just can’t cope with someone else’s issues. As hard as this was for me, many of you have much more difficult caregiving relationships. My heart breaks for you.
Perhaps you live a long distance from your parents and must rely on others for caregiving. There are services offering help to manage those long-distance relationships. Talk to the social workers connected with the nursing home, or research services on the internet.
Maybe you do not have siblings to share the burden, or there is conflict. Do you have a sibling that will not visit the parent in a nursing home? Will they do something else to relieve your many tasks?
When someone wants to help, take them up on the offer, and then be specific:
- Can you meet Dad at the clinic on Friday at 1:00 and take notes on the doctor appointment?
- I will be at the nursing home from 2-4 Sunday, may I drop off the kids at your house to play while I’m visiting grandma?
- I need a break this weekend – could Mom stay with you Saturday morning through Sunday afternoon?
- Yes, you can help – could you prepare a casserole once a month for our family?
- Will you be responsible for placing supply orders on Amazon?
Ask cousins, friends or church members for help. Many people would like to “do something”, they just don’t know what to do or how to ask.
Nothing about this situation is easy; I urge you to be bold in asking for emotional and practical support.
Perhaps your loved one lives with you, they may be a spouse. Talk about difficult! It is easy to tell you to practice self-care, but not so easy when live as a caregiver 24/7.
But I will reiterate my advice anyway – PRACTICE SELF-CARE!
A Run Down You Won’t Help
If you are sick, rundown, or an emotional mess, eventually you will not be able to help your loved one or yourself.
My mother moved my elderly grandparents into my parent’s home when they needed extra care. At age 59 my mom had a stroke, likely due to the stress of caregiving (and not taking care of her health – she had untreated high blood pressure and high cholesterol.) My grandparents went to live with their other daughter, who was actually better suited to be a caregiver. (She had been a foster parent of elderly adults, and had a better support system.)
Dementia does not have a pleasant end. You may eventually need to place your loved one into a care home, prepare for that day. Visit care homes, get their financial world and paperwork in order. That is never an easy decision, but the better prepared your family is to handle such a move, the better you will cope.
Call to Action: Find resources to support you.
If you are a spiritual person, pray for a supernatural love and mercy towards your loved one. If you are at your wit’s end, talk to your doctor, your spiritual leader, or others in a professional capacity.
One thing I can say, I was never angry at God for this situation. I knew Jesus said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33