My boss told me the other day that he was proud of me. He complimented me on how I managed to pursue another graduate degree, work for two law practices and care for my mother. The “old” me would have luxuriated in the praise. The “new” me realizes that I am doing exactly what I ought to do. The “old” me would have said I achieved this juggling act in spite of being a caregiver. The “new” me realizes that I achieved this juggling act because I am a caregiver.
My professional career revolves around caring and protecting the elderly. I could not, in good conscience, not do the same for my mother. As I mentioned previously, I used to browbeat myself, wondering if I am doing this right and worrying whether she feels loved and wanted .
I would like to share with you what I have learned through this journey:
- Do not get caught up on who is not pitching in to help. You will drive yourself to distraction and heartbreak. Stay focused on what you are providing for your loved one. Trust me, it is appreciated.
- Allow yourself to have a moment. Believe it or not, it will pass. It takes too much energy to keep up a facade.
- Tell yourself the truth about your situation. Making up a story to appease yourself is lying. Period.
- People are always cautioning to ask for help. They may mean well, but unless they have a working knowledge of your daily interaction with your loved one, it can turn ugly. I experienced those who tried to help. Even though it “may” not have been intentional, the “helpers” created a mess, leaving me to clean up the collateral damage when they went home.
- I have been fortunate enough to work from home. Please be clear; there will be a push back. You will have to make sacrifices. People will stop by to “keep you company” knowing that you are home because you are working and you are not able leave your loved one alone. Note: As long as you are managing, those who promised to help, will not.
- If someone offers you a few minutes to take a walk, take it. You will feel better and you will be able to exhale.
- If you want to vent, vent to the social worker and the healthcare professionals your loved one sees. You will find that many people will not find talking about your challenges as a caregiver good conversation. I have had even family members cut the conversation short.
- This may sound like shade, but I am going to say it. Unless one is in the trenches or can offer you insight from experience and/or training, their input is useless. You will be offended and may lose it.
I am not trying to scare anyone from being a caregiver. Personally, I have found it rewarding and I have grown personally and professionally. But that is my experience. My dining room is now a bedroom for my mother with a hospital bed (see picture above). I had to move her downstairs because of the stairs. Also, I now have alarms on my doors so that I can hear her when she decides to venture off or open a door when she has an episode.
I would have never imagined having a hospital bed and a commode in my home, let alone in my dining room. For many of us, this is our new normal. Be honest with yourself. If you do not feel that you can be a caregiver on a regular basis, please do not torture yourself. It is better that you tell the truth rather than to become resentful and then later abusive to your loved one.
As I always mention, please report all incidents to the proper authorities. You can also find information on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.
Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.