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.
Caregiver Confession #4: "Dad has no clue what I give up to do this. He thinks his care is routine."
This is a tricky one. As caregivers, we don't want to make the care receiver feel like he or she is a burden to you. The flip side of that, however, is that sometimes caregivers are so giving and cheerful all the time, that the care receiver completely loses sight of the fact that we give up a lot of our lives to be caregivers.
Also, some care receivers are not cognitively capable of even understanding the concept that the caregiver has other obligations. If you have a constant nagging thought that you are unappreciated, you may be in over your head. Getting some respite care may help. Once the care receiver understands that you need to have a break, he or she may be more appreciative. Either way, if you take a break, you will likely feel more refreshed and able to cope with the situation.
Caregiver Confession #5: "Everybody wants a piece of me – there's nothing of myself left for me."
Nearly every woman has had this feeling, whether it's a new mother with a baby demanding to be fed, changed and nurtured while the boss is sending her emails from work, or a caregiver of elders who still has children who are needy, or a mate who feels neglected.
In most cases, we get through this, but if it's ongoing, you may need a third party to help you decide what you can give and what others must do. Say you are the primary caregiver for your dad and your mother-in-law. Your spouse is whiny because he/she feels neglected. It may be time to say, "If you help me by picking up some of this extra caregiving, we'll have more time together." This won't always work, but some spouses just don't "get" the teamwork concept unless they are directly approached. If this doesn't work, look for some paid help. You need some time to yourself.
Caregiver Confession #6: "I can't even take a bath without someone needing me."
This is often a literal problem. If you like to relax by taking a half-hour break in the evening to relax in the tub – maybe with candles and music – but are routinely interrupted even during this sacred time for yourself – you are bound to feel some resentment. Expect to have this time interrupted on occasion, but if you never can take time to yourself, please look for some help. Even a Senior Companion from the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), or a friend, may be able to sit with your loved one. If that isn't possible, it's time to look for a few hours of in-home help. Everyone needs some peace – even a caregiver.
Caregiver Confession #7: "Nothing I do pleases them – they are never happy."
See number two above. This behavior is often not about you. It's about them and their unhappiness over all of their losses. Do your best to detach from the criticism and get breaks when you can. Not taking criticism seriously is the best way to avoid resentment. Trying to understand why they are so critical can help (I'm not talking about historic family abuse here – just crabby, complaining behavior).
Caregiver Confession #8: "I just want to scream, run away, hide somewhere, or change my identity."
This is likely to happen to even the most patient caregivers. It's human to feel overwhelmed by the constant neediness of others. It's time to get some help with your caregiving so you can have a break. However, if you feel like this consistently, you should check with your doctor in case you are depressed or have other health issues of your own.
Caregiver Confession #9: "Maybe if I just take all of Mom's sleeping pills I won't have to wake up to this again."
Get thee to a doctor immediately. Even occasional thoughts like this can mean you are clinically depressed and feel life is hopeless. Please get medical help now.
Caregiver Confession #10: "She is suffering so much. She's been half dead for months. Why can't she just let go and die?"
Believe it or not, this is a common thought. You aren't a bad person. Why would you want to watch day in, day out suffering, where the quality of life, such as it is, is poor. Getting hospice care for the individual can help a great deal. Hospice staff counsels family members and they generally have volunteers who can help you. You need breaks, even if the care receiver could die when you are gone. You can't sit by their bed side every minute, for months. There are worse things than death, so drop the guilt. You aren't the only one who has had this thought.
Feel better, now that you know you aren't alone with your thoughts? I'm sure you can add your own "confessions" to this list. You may even think , "Oh, I've thought worse things than this!" If so, share them with caregivers here at AgingCare. You will quickly see that you aren't alone.
The main point is that having passing "bad thoughts" is normal. You are tired, stressed and pulled in all directions. People are crabby to you and seem ungrateful. It's human to have negative thoughts.
However, if you find yourself consistently thinking in this negative manner, it's time for outside help in the form of respite care for your loved one, breaks for you, or even counseling and/or medication for yourself. You may be depressed. That doesn't mean you are bad. You are just human. It's time to accept your humanity and get help.