I’m privileged to be able to talk to caregivers. I wrote a book titled “Experiencing God While Caregiving.” It’s not so much on how to be a caregiver because the scenarios for caregiving are endless. It is a book on how to survive as a caregiver, taken from the things I learned as I cared for my husband his last three years of life.
It’s exciting to see my book dog-eared, underlined, and obviously read several times. The sadness is every caregiver I talk to has the same story, “I’m exhausted and lonely.”
There is no end to the demands on their schedule, the changes in diets to accommodate, doctors appointments, medication schedules, health changes to watch, and the list goes on. I use to ask my husband every morning how he felt, and every morning, he would recount for me every pain and ache he had. Even that felt exhausting.
The last reader I talked to said her husband asked her to dress him every morning even though he was capable of doing that himself. She felt she had no time for her self to relax or grow as a person. My suggestion was that she talk to her husband about it. To sit down with him at a convenient time and tell him in a kind way how she felt. She responded that she wasn’t sure she could be kind about it. Her exhaustion had turned into anger, and soon, it may become bitterness and resentment. Their life and yours is too short for those emotions to be a part of your remaining time with your loved one.
Communication is so important, and often, a care receiver is all about themselves. They have tunnel vision, so to speak because everything in their life, and consequently yours is based on them and how they feel. They may need to be jarred out of their self-focus. You as a caregiver must think about your health too. If you become ill or injured, your loved one could be in a worse place than they know. My husband wanted to hang on me instead of using a walker because it seemed less like being old, but his weight on me was too much. I had to tell him that he was too much for me to support often, and if we both went down and I broke my arm, my ability to safely drive or help him could be over. It’s important to share your fears and the possible outcome. It’s healthy for them to think about you, not just themselves.
Doing things for your loved one that they can do for themselves makes them more dependent on you which will make it harder for you to take a break from them when you need to meet with a friend or an appointment for yourself. It seems silly to say you must force them to be independent, but you may have to do it. The more dependent someone becomes, the more they feel sick or useless. It may take some encouragement from you or thinking through what may be most comfortable for them to do. Pull-on pants and shirts are more comfortable than those with buttons or fasteners. Slip on shoes rather than those with laces. A toothbrush that is powered may be less of a problem than the brushing motion. Not to add more to your overcomplicated schedule, but a trip to a home medical store could give you ideas of ways that could provide your loved one more independence and also you!
Too much dependency from your care receiver can lead to co-dependency, which is sort of “messiah complex.” Your care receiver has come to believe you are the only one who can do anything for them. You know their condition and what the doctors have said. You know their quirks and how they like their pillows or cushions. You feel protective and needed. No matter how good you are as a caregiver, you are not God, nor can you do the job of being Omniscient or Omnipresent. You must live within your ability and your energy. You are human with all the weaknesses of being human. Talk to your loved one about the limits you have with energy and mental fatigue before it translates into health problems for you.
YOU are important! You are not God; you are human. Talk with your loved one and set a pace and daily schedule that takes both of you into account. Be free to consider your self, your time, your down time, a time to spoil you! You are needed, take care of yourself! A 24/7 job that can last for years is too much to do without time to consider your needs and limits.