I wrote this at 3am when I was feeling utterly overwhelmed and in despair. I wish someone had told me the honest and harsh realities of being a primary family caregiver. Anyone else feel this way?
My editorial warning on caregiving
“It’s kind of like taking care of a child.” I've heard it. I’ve said it. I don’t have children, but I am confident I can make the bold statement that no, it is not like taking care of a child. You can choose to have a child. Family caregiving is not a choice. It is thrust upon you and ridiculously expected.
I'm positive there is joy in raising a child. I am also positive there is no joy watching your loved one slowly die without the dignity they deserve. It is heart and soul crushing, not rewarding.
Meanwhile, your life disappears. The person you have always known you were becomes in question. The where, how and why of fitting in outside the confines of the caregiving home fade away because you can rarely leave the confines. The world moves on without you. All you can do is helplessly watch.
Say good bye to a good nights sleep. Interrupted sleep becomes the norm, setting you up for mental and physical ailments you will have no time nor will to address.
The advice you get is, self care. Trust me when I say, there isn’t enough self care to properly deal with the physical, emotional and mental toll family caregivng will take on you. No walk. Nor yoga or meditation. No hobby or hot bath. Body, mind and soul are pierced, deeply.
“What your doing is so full love.” That may be, but how it really feels? Desperate. Nails on the chalk board. Suffocating. Death of your young, healthy soul. You get to the point of just wanting the person to die so they would not be suffering and you would be free, which quickly turns to feeling like a pile of selfish sh—. Say hello to low self esteem.
And I haven’t even touched on the firestorm of childhood crap it brings up to be taking care of your elderly parent. Let alone the all encompassing grief of witnessing the slow, sad demise of said parent.
Oh, and your marriage. Yeah. That will take a direct hit as well. No matter how supportive your spouse is, your marriage will not be the same. It will become a struggle to find time just you two and eventually the only thing you have to talk about is caregiving. The threat of growing apart becomes heartbreakingly real.
No matter how much guilt you feel, move through it. Do not put your life on hold. Do not live the life of an elderly person when you are not in fact elderly. Because that’s what happens. You eat dinner by 4 and go to bed by 8, with no substance to your day, just endless motions of caregiving.
Talk to your parent about options; help in the home, assisted living, etc. When mom moved here she stated she never wanted to go to assisted living. We agreed. Now we are stuck is this sad, perpetual purgatory that could last for years.
My warning to you, to everyone....if you don’t have to, don’t do it.