Measuring caregiver stress- I'd like to share this recent experience...

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I'd like to share this recent experience with the caregivers who feel guilty when they put their parents in assisting living or another type of care facility, or bring in help to their homes. My mother, 97, is very easy to take care of. No trouble yet with her personal ADLs, no need to lift her, she moves around with a walker. But after a few years of "being on" all the time, you get exhausted without even realizing it. And you feel guilty when you just long to stay in bed in the morning as long as you want to...or you dread her next doctor appointment because you have to get her in and out of the car twice, up and down the ramp twice, probably to the ladies' room at the doctor's office once or twice... I have felt generally pretty bad for at least a year. Then in November I had a health emergency involving two surgeries, a week in intensive care and three weeks in rehab. My mother went into assisted living, as her doctors and mine agreed that I would no longer be able to care for her. I lay there in the nursing facility letting the nurses take care of me and started feeling better and better. Incision and surgery-related pains aside, I felt as if the IVs were pumping me full of something called "good health." Physical rehab went so fast that the rehab staff later referred to me as a miracle cure. All these good things are the measures of how terrible the stress had become before my surgery. And I didn't even realize it. And my situation was much easier than that of many caregivers. So watch yourself. Pay attention to the folks who tell you to take care of yourself. And start looking at local care facilities before your parent needs one, so that you have a plan if the need arises unexpectedly. Good luck and warm hugs to all of you.


Thanks for sharing that. An excellent case study of caregiving and it’s effects. I assume the NH for mom is permanent?
Encouragement based on real experience - and even a happy ending! Can't think of anything better to put heart into caregivers facing difficult choices. Thank you, and well done.
realtime, so many of us usually wait until we crash and burn before realizing how much damage the stress has causing us.

I remember breaking my arm in a fall, worst pain EVER, no cast but had to wear a sling all the time. The sling was helpful in letting my parents know I wasn't able to do the routine things to help them.

When I was in rehab, the doctor's office was across the hall from my office, the doctor wanted me to stop using the sling so that my arm muscles would stretch. Then I mentioned my aging parents. He smiled and said it was ok to use the sling while visiting my parents :)) I wore that sling for 6 months. Hey, I was senior citizen, too.

Breaking my arm was a welcome relief as crazy as it sounds, but I wouldn't recommend it :P
Yes, Windyridge. She'll stay there permanently. Actually there's more to the story. When I went to the hospital, she went into respite care at an ALF nearby. On her first day there, she cracked her pelvis --- apparently a compression fracture, not a fall --- and also ended up in the hospital and then in rehab. She herself realized that even if I were in good health, I wouldn't have been able to help her if she became bed- or wheelchair bound. And my problem really scared her, because she realized that my health wasn't reliable. I'm 74, for heaven's sake!

So actually, the two problems --- my surgery, her fall --- were lucky. They forced us to make big changes immediately instead of worrying about what we'd do in the future. And we had realized that some months earlier --- we weren't completely unprepared. She had already chosen her preferred ALF, the family had already taken steps to offer her property for sale --- gotten surveys and appraisals for our own decision-making, regularized 90 years of error-filled deeds, interviewed brokers, interviewed estate sales agents, begun planning the logistics of a future move. In fact, I had two broker interviews scheduled for the afternoon of the day of my collapse; but my out-of-town brother and I had been coordinating so he picked up where I left off and moved ahead. (Up until then, I handled local matters, he handled financial and legal matters and took our mother on an annual month-long vacation.)

Another place we were lucky, and I realize that not everyone is in the same position, is that we had a support network. Two dear neighbors stepped in with my mother for the couple of days until my brother and his wife arrived; a local cousin (caregiver for her elderly mother) took over as my advocate at the hospital, as I was unconscious; and my out-of-state daughter got here before my mother's accident, took over "project management" of the whole thing, and stayed until I was in rehab, conscious, and mentally tracking. The three local ladies were heaven sent, and I hope everyone is as lucky with their networks.

Sorry for writing so much. I'm still processing what happened mentally and emotionally, and it's been two months since my collapse, a month since I got out of rehab.

Oh, frequent flyer! What a wonderful doctor you had! I confess: I still use a cane when visiting my mother. I probably could do without it safely (I came out of this with some balance issues) but I figure the message is useful. And no, I wouldn't recommend abdominal surgery either, but I do recommend growing a spine and standing up for yourself before breaking any bones!
This post hits close to home..a dear friend passed away last week at age 74. He had been 24/7 caring for his wife for the last 15+ years. No aides, just a housekeeper a couple times a week. He literally wore himself out caring for his wife. Everybody just assumed the wife would die first, she has literally had severe health issues all her life. I've never known her to be "healthy" and I have known her 40 years.

I know he would never have had his wife placed in a SNF, ever, and he paid the ultimate price for his loving care.

Your post was a real wake up call for a lot of us. I know my hubby will not do well in his "dotage" and I am already feeling frightened for that eventuality.

I'm glad that you and your mother are both doing better!!
Wow, Midkid, I wonder how your friend's wife feels? Would she even see that his constant care of her contributed to his eventual collapse? How horrible to pass so young.
I'm sorry for the loss of your dear friend.
Hi, Midkid, what a sad story! And now she'll have to go into a facility anyway, without the comfort of having him nearby to visit.
realtime: what a great post and warning to us all! I thoroughly understand what you mean how much just "being on" all time. I've mentioned that to my siblings who don't get it, even though they've cared for Mom too. I've had a couple emotional meltdowns--I have a lot going on in my personal life that has to go on the back burner. Since i've been here, the siblings seem to have forgotten what it's like--though Mom was more self-sufficient than she is now. They both have no idea of being trapped inside a house dayafterdayafterday without letup. It does take toll on us!

When I do get a day off, it's amazing how light I feel just being free!
realtime (((((((hugs))))) wow -just wow. It all fell (no pun intended) together so well. Glad you and your mum are recovering. Keep that cane!!!

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