As a young caregiver, I often dwelled on caregiving’s negative aspects. No wild college parties, spring break vacations, or date nights. My young adult life revolved around caring for my grandmother. We were restricted to the confines of home. Family visited for holidays and special occasions. Observers volunteered unhelpful advice and insisted I should be grateful for my open availability. I cherished moments with my grandmother, but 24/7 seemed excessive. She and I were independent women from different generations. Each needed alone time to gather thoughts and reflect on current life struggles. Alone but together was my 19 year old caregiver mentality.
Our caregiving journey progressed; I matured and found new appreciation for my grandmother. She epitomized strong-will and independence. Strokes and congestive heart failure were debilitating, but never destroyed her youthful spirit. My admiration grew as I watched her battle and overcome painful illnesses. She was my hero, an inspiration who proved a strong will to live could conquer seemingly fatal obstacles. Her love for living was contagious and I’m glad I caught the bug. Independence was taught through encouragement. Self-doubt turned into confidence. She surfaced my forgotten inner-strengths.
Maturity brought faith related questions. Why do good people suffer? Why is life so unfair to kind and gentle individuals? I’m still searching for the answers. Caregiving revealed lost emotions and gave my life purpose. I easily empathized with all living things and shared concern for the welfare of others. There’s always some good in bad situations. Was I satisfied with my grandmother suffering from illness? No. However, this obstacle and life’s spontaneity determined my morality and mentality. Caregiving created an independent, mature adult devoted to the happiness and well-being of others. Responsibilities were no longer burdens and life was beautiful.
Caring for an ailing loved-one is stressful and mentally draining. Remember and reflect on the positive experiences. Realize your growth by documenting personal and emotional changes. Caregiving granted me new perspectives. Light exists at the end of seemingly endless tunnels. I’m patient, understanding, and sympathetic to the needs of others. My appreciation for humanity is ever growing. The elderly are no longer lonely, crotchety people loathing the sight of youth. They’re fascinating, charismatic, wise human beings surviving life. Aging is not a burden, but a blessing. The wisdom and love learned through aging is life’s greatest experience. I’ve newfound respect for the Greatest Generation. They provided us the world in which we live and freedom to love ourselves and others equally. My grandmother showed strength thought nonexistent. She’s my inspiration. Our 11 year journey established my character and integrity. Caregiving shaped my soul. Thank you for reading!
Caregiving is perceived by non-caregivers as thoughtless work requiring no effort or participation. Caregivers stay home, give medication reminders, and complete common domestic tasks while enjoying their favorite afternoon soap opera, right? Wrong! Caring for the frail, ailing, and disabled is a grueling task repeated daily with limited sleep. Monotonous labor intensive schedules cause physical and emotional stress. Constantly answering demands of care-recipients leaves no time for self-care. Balancing work schedules and doctors’ appointments is almost impossible. Worrying about the welfare of a loved-one and having no one to discuss the possible devastating outcome leaves a mind heavy and drained of hope. No one cares about a caregiver’s anguish and suffering. Their health is no concern as long as non-caregivers can continue their uninterrupted lives.
Caregivers need adequate stress relief and dependable support systems in order to perform daily functions effectively. Depression, mental breakdowns, and aggression are all results of an overworked caregiver. Endless days and long nights allow no sleep. Caregiving duties are continuous and rarely end at a specific time. There’s no TGIF or end-of-day routine. Weekdays and weekends blend together.
When are caregivers given the opportunity to de-stress and rest? A break is a rare instance when a family member volunteers to watch the care-recipient for a few hours and the caregiver sneaks away for a little alone time. These few hours are usually spent worrying or wondering what other daily tasks need to be completed. Sadly, caregivers often don’t receive relief from their hectic schedules. Care continues until the care-recipient is satisfied or has fallen asleep. Completion may take minutes, hours, or an entire day.
Caregivers providing in-home care for loved-ones don’t have consistent work schedules and are unable to make “after work” plans. They live and sleep in their workplace. Relentless hours and limited sleep will break even the strongest person. Caregivers are expected to carry on with a smile without inconveniencing onlookers. Their crying episodes, social isolation, and anger outbursts are considered ridiculous. How can staying at home caring for one person be so stressful? You need to get yourself together! Oh you would rather put him/her in a nursing home? How can you be depressed? You’re overreacting! These are questions and statements expressed by family and friends to stressed caregivers.
Caregivers understand the demands and struggles of caregiving. These forgotten heroes need stress relief in order to maintain sanity and provide consistent quality care. A simple telephone call from a friend or relative allowing a caregiver vent time is sometimes all that’s needed. Refusing and ignoring their requests for help is narrow-minded and selfish. Without stress relief, caregivers cannot adequately care for patients. Lack of focus and physical exhaustion hinder completion of daily tasks. Denying help results in emotional breakdowns. Constant worry of grim medical outcomes causes depression and anxiety. These conditions are treated with an anti-anxiety medication prescription. The caregiver has now become the care-recipient. Caregivers’ anxieties, depressions, and stress are preventable by volunteering time and offering respite care. Thank you for reading. Take care and please share!
Caregiving is a selfless act defining personality and morality. Only those who have walked this path can truly understand the struggles. Third-party observers try to empathize, but are unaware of the daily stress endured by the caregiver. Non-caregivers don’t realize….
1.) ….their “care for yourself” advice is falling on deaf ears. Self-care is important and caregivers should have the opportunity to rest and de-stress. However, the daily demands of caregiving can cause physical and emotional exhaustion. We’re aware of self-care’s significance, but are too tired and preoccupied to practice it.
2.) ….caregiving is not just healthcare. Financial obligations, domestic errands, meal preparation, advanced planning for family gatherings/outings, maintaining a safe home environment, and endless paperwork are daily caregiver responsibilities.
3.) ….our smiles are disguising a feeling of constant worry. Self-doubt and uncertainty adds to the overwhelming character of caregiving. Questioning judgement becomes part of our daily routine. Sleep provides little relief from anxiety and tension. The mind is unable to fully rest and is overflowing with what-if’s and did-I’s.
4.) ….the social isolation endured by caregivers. Devotion to the well-being of another involves love and sacrifice. Caregiving is demanding and allows limited time for socialization. Doctors, nurses, care-recipients, and an occasional visit from friends and family is sometimes the only “outside” contact for caregivers.
5.) ….caregiving’s financial burden. The amount of care required and long-term care funds, dictate frequentness of responsibilities. Care-recipients needing 24-hour care and lacking significant healthcare funds need unemployed caregivers with open availabilities. Those providing care are forced to live on one income in a “two” income society. Many receive no compensation for their caregiving duties and survive on the care-recipient’s limited income.
6.) ….the strain caregiving puts on marriage. Arguments manifest from lack of socialization and financial instability. Frustration incurred from caregiving is released at the expense of the spouse. Conversations about NON-caregiving activities are inexistent. A caregiver’s marriage revolves around the care-recipient.
Non-caregivers, help by volunteering your time and patience. Listen and allow us to vent. We’re aware of caregiving’s difficulties and need not be reminded of its hectic reality. Offer support through respite care and socialization. Thank you for reading! Take care!