Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!
When you commit a crime and get sentenced, unless the crime was brutal you can often get a reduced sentence for good behavior. When someone becomes ill with a chronic health challenge and you’re the caregiver there’s no time off for good behavior. This week was two years since my father-in-law died. He had a stroke after open-heart surgery twenty years before he died. My mother-in-law cared for him at home for the first ten years and finally his care became too overwhelming and we found a placement in a nursing home.
Even though he was getting full-time care at the nursing home, my mother-in-law was still his caregiver. She was the liaison with the office, the staff, and the doctors. She was still the one who provided him with things he need aside from food and shelter. She visited him for years on a daily basis. Physical location doesn’t disconnect the caregiver from the person who is sick or injured.
My concern is that we have to educate caregivers about self-preservation. My mother-in-law basically stopped living her life at the age of 52 and for 20 years cared for her husband. There’s the joke that many murderers get less time and what they did was a crime. We have to educate caregivers that external resources are not a bad thing. My parents had a live-in caregiver for my grandmother for a few years. It didn’t erase the worry, but there was a sense of security that someone was living with her who would give her company, and provide a safe environment for her.
We speak about quality of life for the person with the illness and almost never address it with the caregiver. Respite care is helpful but 4 hours a week doesn’t give you, the caregiver, sufficient time to take care of your own needs and life. Families live far apart in our society so long-distance caregiving is often the only possibility. Care managers are great in this instance because they are local and can coordinate the services needed for the person you love. The unfortunate part is that it can become costly.
Industrialized society has given us a good model for caregiving. We need to examine smaller cultures to see how they provide care for their sick and injured. We need to see how people who cared for us get the care they deserve when needed. We need to figure out how to become a caregiving culture because that’s where we’re headed…have you looked at the statistics on the baby boomers?
As you know caregiving is not solely about the physical aspects of caregiving. It takes up a lot of your emotional and spiritual space in your being. On the emotional and spiritual end of caregiving it is a 24/7 commitment. Just because the person may not be living with you doesn’t make caregiving any less meaningful or stressful; don’t even get me started on caregiver guilt.
Give yourself time off…let’s see if we can become solution focused to make it happen.