You’ve worked your entire life; you’ve lined up your retirement leisure activities; you’re ready to start the first day of the rest of your life, but instead you start a new job: caregiver to your sibling, spouse, parent, or other family member.
Or perhaps you retired early to take on your caregiver job because there was no way you could do it all: continue your full-time job while moonlighting as your loved one’s caregiver. It doesn’t work or it only works until the caregiver runs out of steam. One way or another, your retirement years sure don’t resemble what you envisioned.
The CNN article, As baby boomers retire, a focus on caregivers, paints a frightening picture but one that is painfully accurate. The highlighted caregiver, Felicia Hudson, said she takes comfort in the following sentiment:
Circumstances do not cause anger, nervousness, worry or depression; it is how we handle situations that allow these adverse moods.
I agree with the above sentiment to a very small degree because let’s face it, the nitty-gritty of a caregiver’s life is filled with anger-inducing depressive circumstances about which I don’t think caregivers should beat themselves up trying to handle with a happy face and a positive attitude. It just doesn’t work that well in the long-term. It’s a well-known fact, and one that is always talked about by the Alzheimer’s Association, that caregivers don’t take care of themselves because they don’t know how, or don’t have the support, to stop trying to do all of their life’s jobs by themselves.
“I’m obligated because my parents took great care of me, and now it’s time for me to take care of them.”
“For better or worse means taking care of my spouse, even though she’s getting the better of me, and I’m getting worse and worse.”
The problem with the above sentiments is that oftentimes the adult child or spouse start to resent the person for whom they are providing care. It’s like going to a job you hate but being held to an unbreakable employment contract; your employer is a loved one with a life-altering or terminal illness; and you’re not getting paid. “Taking care of a loved one in need is reward enough.” No, it’s not.
I’m not bitter, I’m simply realistic. Caregiving is one of the most difficult jobs any of us will hold and we can’t do it all by ourselves. My blog article, Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport, encourages each person in a family caregiving situation to create a team of co-caregivers to more effectively get the job done. And please take a look at the other articles found in that same category of Caregiving. I hope you will find encouragement in those articles – some based on my own experience, and some from other caregivers’ shared experiences – especially when a positive attitude and a happy face just isn’t working for you.
This story will horrify you as it does me. This unethical, criminal, hideous, inhumane action helps to explain why I am committed to my volunteer job as a Long-Term Care Ombudsman (an advocate for residents in long-term care facilities.) God help the person who ever attempts such a thing with one of my loved ones.
I found myself walking with horse blinders on my head at a grocery store the other day. I was on a mission – picking up a few items and moving on to the next errand on my list.
As I passed a woman in a wheelchair, I thought I might have heard her say something but I moved on a couple steps until she repeated herself: “Excuse me, could you help me?” I then turned around to find that she couldn’t reach the half gallon of milk that she needed because it was on a shelf 8 feet off the ground. Unless someone helped her she would have to cross milk off her shopping list. My 6 feet of deaf human self easily grabbed the milk off the shelf. I only wish I had been tuned in to someone other than ME so I had responded immediately instead of being asked twice.
Was I a BAD person for not responding quicker? No – but I sure wasn’t watching my neighbor’s back.
Seattle actor, Brian Sutherland was watching his neighbor’s back as told in the Seattle Times article, “A bad guy on the screen becomes a real-life hero.” This 27-year old man saw a suspected purse snatcher steal a 69-year old woman’s purse and chased him down – managing to retrieve part of her purse’s contents and return them to her. But that’s not all! Once he returned the items to the woman he decided to go after the thief!!! Read the linked article I’ve provided and you’ll think Brian was doing some stunts in a movie in which he might have acted: leaping over fences, darting through alleyways – he was amazing!!!
I’m not saying that the average Joe, or Jill, should attempt what he did but what I am saying is that we should have the same commitment to others as Brian has. Brian is quoted as saying, “We need to be watching each other’s backs and standing up for each other. There’s no good reason why somebody who’s lived to 60 or 70 should be jacked on the street in broad daylight. Our society should just not work that way.”
I agree Brian. And there’s no good reason why someone in a wheelchair should have to ask for help twice. I blew it the other day because my selfishness initially made me deaf and blind to a woman who simply needed a half gallon of milk.
I’ll do better next time.
This article from The Alzheimer’s Reading Room provides much wisdom and guidance when it comes to making choices when communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles on my Blog, “If you don’t insist, they can’t resist.”
“Once bitten, twice shy.” The Chinese and Japanese proverb has a variant: “One year bitten by a snake, for three years afraid of a grass rope.”
How does one who is as imperfect as myself apply this Proverb without writing an article that goes on and on into perpetuity? All of us can think of circumstances in which we fail to learn by experience and continue doing the same stupid/inadvisable thing over and over again expecting different results. As I said, my life is rife with examples, but this article centers around caregiving – especially as it applies to caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. CAVEAT: I would never write on something about which I had not experienced. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve paid for my mistakes.
I’m so tired of my spouse/father/mother asking me the same question over and over again and supplying her with the same answer over and over again!
Anyone with a loved one who has any type of dementia has lived in this unending vicious cycle. We think that if we just answer the question one more time she’ll remember and not ask the question again. Or we think that if we just spoke louder – or slower – she would certainly remember and life would be infinitely improved. Not happening. Answer the question once, and then move on to another topic. Change the subject; redirect your loved one by doing something that will distract her; or simply don’t respond at all. What ever you do, don’t aggravate the situation by reminding her that you’ve already answered that question numerous times so why don’t you stop already!!!??? Take a deep breath and remember: your spouse isn’t the one asking questions over and over again and frustrating you beyond all measure – the disease is asking the questions. I know – intellectually you understand that concept, but your eyes see and hear your spouse pestering you for an answer over, and over again, so it’s very difficult to get beyond the emotion of the situation. Read the rest of this entry »
This post, from a wonderful Blog about caregiving, http://www.letstalkaboutfamily.wordpress.com provides an excellent idea. It’s never too late to start this project for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.