A friend sent me a lengthy article on the problems faced by caregivers. I would attach the site for you, but I didn’t remember to save it after printing out the article. I’m sure there are dozens of such sites on the Internet since there are so many of us Baby Boomers caring for our elderly relatives. I’m not going to go look since I don’t want to be any more depressed than I already am.
According to the article there are 44 million adults caring for loved ones with disabilities. “It’s not an easy task,” says the author. “Most caregivers are ill-prepared to effectively fulfill their role.” (Okay, but I’m trying!) And then goes on to say, “Studies show that the strains of caregiving, coupled with a lack of caregiver support, can have serious consequences on a caregivers’s health.” (Oh, great!)
I immediately started checking to see if I was debilitated, depressed, anxious, diseased, or beginning substance abuse. Nope, haven’t started smoking, drinking or mainlining heroin. No ulcers, colitis, migraines, no cognitive decline, no attention deficit disorders (wait, I thought it was kids that got that), no loss of memory (okay, some, but maybe not early dementia?) or impaired verbal ability (does gritted teeth count?). No bodily pain, no obesity, no high blood pressure or signs of cancer. And no higher mortality rate that I know of (How on earth would I know that? I’m not dead yet!).
Okay, perhaps some emotional and psychological stress. But I don’t plan to have “these feelings persist” after Mom leaves for Florida on Tuesday to join Hubby Al. There is just going to be a huge sense of relief. Perhaps if Mom falls down Superna’s stairs in Florida and breaks her neck, then I’ll feel guilty. But no, Mom is stubborn and much as I have tried to convince her to stay, she’s going. Leaving me with giant holes in my daily habits—which is not a bad thing, I promise! I have more than enough activities to fill them.
The article does, at last, suggest means of taking care of ourselves while we are giving care. We are to “tend to our needs first.” (I try to, most of the time). Take a break. (I had to, for those conferences and speaking engagements). Ask for help from Other Caregivers. (Thank goodness for the OC, Sister Sara, who shampooed the carpet). Share your feelings with others. (Blessings on Blogs – who knew they could be a means of venting?) Find emotional support. (Amazing the number of others who are going through the same thing!) And then, in large caps: FIND A THERAPIST. Uhh, well, no, thanks, I don’t think so.
Still, the article gave me pause. Many of my friends have told me not to let the caregiving get me down. I didn’t think I had, but perhaps I have said no to activities that I used to do without thinking. Maybe I have given up lunches or suppers or hurried back from trips when I could have stayed to do research. Or missed out on swimming, or exercising, or lengthy ocean cruises. Maybe I have pulled back and become more of a recluse. But then again, I have had time for more writing. I did finish and win NaNoWriMo, after all.
We all have to deal with the issues of our elderly parents in our own way. It’s true that we have to fight down that obedient, subservient child-mind that kicks in when Mom wants something, or won’t eat, or puts on a stained blouse, or opens the mail, or demands to go to Wal-mart at nine o’clock at night. “No, Mom, I’m not going to go get the car.” But we do want our elderly relative to be happy, and sometimes that just isn’t in the cards. Can I shrug and accept that Mom may be angry at me? Yup. Sometimes.
But in the meantime, I’m going to invite my colleague—who lost her job to care for her mother—out for lunch. We need it.