Wouldn't it be nice to be perfect? Wouldn't it be nice to be a caregiver who had only loving thoughts every moment of the caregiving day? Maybe there are caregivers like that. If you are one of them, I truly congratulate you. Most of us who have been through years of caregiving will not fall into that category. I don't. How about you? Here's a sampling of "caregiver confessions" that I've heard. You'll likely feel better just reading them.
Some Non-Angelic Caregiver Thoughts
- I have no life of my own and I'm sick of it.
- Mom acts like my boss even when it comes to what I eat.
- How much longer can I keep this up? There is no light at the end of this tunnel.
- Dad has no clue what I give up to do this. He thinks his care is routine.
- Everybody wants a piece of me – there's nothing of myself left for me.
- I can't even take a bath without someone needing me.
- Nothing I do pleases them – they are never happy.
- I just want to scream, run away, hide somewhere, or change my identity.
- Maybe if I just take all of Mom's sleeping pills I won't have to wake up to this again.
- She is suffering so much. She's been half dead for months. Why can't she just let go and die?
Obviously, some of these thought are more serious than others, however what is most important is the frequency of the thoughts and the duration. Let's look at them more closely.
Caregiver Confession #1: "I have no life of my own and I'm sick of it."
Caregivers often run from person to person, job to care receiver, home to nursing home, never really having time to do something that they want to do – just for themselves. If this describes your life, you are over-ready to get outside help. Whether that means some in-home care for respite so you can get away, or a sibling to step in so you don't have to spend every moment of every day as a caregiver, it's time to get a grip on your life. If you don't, you may burn out, get sick yourself, or even die before the care receiver. Who wins then? No one.
Caregiver Confession #2: "Mom acts like my boss even when it comes to what I eat."
Elders in need of constant care feel their own pain. They generally feel a lack of control over their lives, as bit by bit their abilities slip away. This can make some of them disagreeable and bossy. Generally, the answer to this is to learn to detach with love. If she picks on you for eating junk food, just let it go. You need to set some boundaries around what you will respond to. Some things are irritating but really not that important.
Often, if an elderly parent is bossy and critical, it's more about her than you. By detaching – not reacting, but just saying something like, "I'm sorry that's bothering you," and then moving on with what you are doing, you will not be giving in to her nagging. You'll be respectful of her sense of loss, but you won't be a doormat. She will likely get tired of trying to boss you around if you ignore her behavior rather than arguing with her.
Caregiver Confession #3: "How much longer can I keep this up? There is no light at the end of this tunnel."
If you have these thoughts on occasion, you may be just having a normal, down day. Caregiving can be tough and demanding. Caregivers often become exhausted. However, if you find yourself thinking like this often, you should seek medical help. You may have clinical depression, which can require therapy and/or medication (if a break from constant care isn't enough). Please see your doctor.