A former co-worker recently posted this on her social media:
Feeling trapped, caged. Is this a normal reaction to caregiving? (Asking for the friend I used to be to myself.)
She is the caregiver to her elderly mother who is bedridden, deprived of her sight, and suffers from a variety of maladies that also spur bouts of delirium.
This breaks my heart. I remember both mother and daughter as vibrant, artistically talented women, who loved their life sharing a charming cabin in a rural community.
Illness and long life are taking their toll on the mother, and the dutiful daughter thrust into the role of caregiver is wrapped in the commitment – and guilt – inherent to this responsibility.
November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to reflect on and support the millions of family caregivers who give their love, their time, their patience, and their energy to caring for a family member in their homes.
Are you picturing a soft-focused, gentle picture, of caregiver and patient smiling over the Scrabble board as they strengthen their bonds of love and togetherness? It’s rarely like that.
It’s not an easy job. It’s full of self-sacrifice. It’s replete with frustration. It can feel hopeless and lonely. You could be angry one minute at the unending tasks when you’re running a household for someone who needs limitless care…and then be gobsmacked at the thought of losing that person forever.
Sometimes it’s not affordable to hire help.
Or quit your job to stay home full-time. Or find a comfortable, caring, safe place for your family member to live where trained staffers tend to their needs and you visit at will. Sometimes it’s all up to you. And that can get really lonely.
If you’re the caregiver, the best thing you can do for the loved one in your care is to care for yourself.
Take care of your own physical and mental health. Don’t isolate yourself from friends or other family members: you need their support. Find or keep your hobbies to give you much-needed diversion.
If you’re a friend of a caregiver, be present for your friend. Listen. Don’t just offer to help: show up with a bag of groceries or some homemade cookies or an offer to help with a repair or household chore or just stay for a while if that will help…or quietly leave if it won’t. Don’t judge.
Family caregiving doesn’t begin and end in November: let’s use this month as a guidepost.
Anyone of us can be put into this role someday. Prepare for it by arming yourself with knowledge and steeling your heart with love and compassion.
The Caregiver Action Network has some very practical advice and a robust website with resources and guidance. Spectrum Health is here for you, too, with caring and compassionate professionals ready to help you cope.
Finally, you’re OK, Diane. You’re doing what you’re meant to do in this moment for this time. June knows and loves that you’re there. After all, being ‘there’ for each other is the best thing we can do.
“All things that pass are wisdom’s looking-glass.”
― Christina Rossetti
By Cherie Messore
Sr. Manager of Public Relations
Spectrum Health and Human Services