Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I Hate Caregiving

I’m going to go ahead and fire this up: I don’t like caregiving. I hate the demands it makes on my life, the worries that keep me awake at night, the anxiety created by wondering if my mother is being cared for and is safe and the toll it takes on what was already a pretty busy and stressful life. 

What I really hate is seeing my mother like this.

And anyone who would ask, “But, don’t you love you mother? Don’t you want to show that you love her by providing some of her care?” is an idiot.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that any person who would say, “Yeah, I’m glad my loved one has Alzheimer’s/Cancer/Parkinson’s (you name it) and I love the fact that my life has been turned upside down and I’m tired all the time and having to use up my work time off on emergency room visits and sitting with them,” would have to be seriously demented.

If you’re with me say, “Amen,” and don’t feel guilty about it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wishing you didn’t have to go through the caregiving experience. 


So, step away from the guilt train.

People tell me, “You just have to step up and do it.” And yes, they are right. I agree and I’m doing that. But, I don’t have to like it. I don’t have to wish my life was like this.

There’s a wonderful story that comes out of caregiving lore. A woman was caring for her husband who had Parkinson’s. She had finally gotten him to bed after an incredibly trying day. She’s standing in the kitchen washing dishes…and she snapped. She took the coffee cup she was washing and threw it on the floor, shattering it into pieces. The feeling of relief she experienced from the act surprised and pleased her so she threw another cup on the floor…and then a dish…and then a bowl.

After a quick clean-up she realized she had found a unique stress relieving strategy.
The next day she went into their garage and hung a blanket against a wall and stacked three cinder blocks in front of it. She started bringing out boxes of old dishes and whenever she felt stressed she’d go out to the garage and zing china at the cinder blocks.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with not wanting to be overwhelmed/crushed/obliterated by the caregiving experience. There is no guilt in the thought and feeling.

As long as you are doing what you need to do to keep you loved one safe and cared for you’re stepping up.

It’s just that in order to keep from going crazy you sometimes need to step away, mentally, emotionally and literally.

***If you believe another caregiver needs to see this please forward it to them.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Where Are Your Car Keys?

There’s a question that sums up a lot of the practical issues of being a caregiver.

Where are your car keys?

Most of us live a vehicle-centered lifestyle so if we don’t know where our keys might be we’re lost.

Your keys should be in one of two or three places: In the ignition of your vehicle, in your pocket or purse, or (if you are a male) the single place you put them when you take them out of your pocket.

But, we’ll drop’em on the table, on the bed, on a shelf, in the bathroom, on the bar, in the office and just about anywhere else there is a relatively flat surface.

The average American loses 15 hours every year looking for car keys. I’m willing to bet for caregivers it’s 40-60 hours.

Caregiving often stresses us to the point that we’d forget our heads if they weren’t attached to our bodies.

So, the location of our car keys is a wonderful microcosm of the challenges we face. And getting stressed looking for our keys makes us crazy.

So, have one place (a bowl, a hook, a box, next to your bed) to put your keys if you don’t leave them in a purse.

Finally, the have-a-place-for-things works great for a whole range of items you might use on a regular basis. The average American loses two weeks in time every year looking for stuff so anything you can do to ease that burden while caregiving is a good thing.

***Be sure and forward the Caregiving Craziness blog to a caregiver you think can use the help.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Strength In Numbers

I remember laughing when I heard this: When someone asks, “How are you?” unless they’re wearing a white coat and a stethoscope, they don’t really care.

There’s a lot of truth to the line. And, as I’ve mentioned here before, in answering the question you don’t want to dump all your troubles on folks all the time. The dumping turns them off and pushes them away from you.

However, there are some folks who might not mind you sharing your caregiving issues as long as you’re willing to hear theirs.

The number of caregiver groups has exploded in the last decade because so many more folks are caregivers. You can find caregiver groups in your religious community, by contacting local health care organizations such as hospitals, care centers, associations (ex. Alzheimers.com), and by asking other caregivers with whom you have come in contact.

However, there are two sides to being part of a caregiver group:
 The positive side is that you realize you’re not in this by yourself and other caregivers may offer practical suggestions to help you move through your experience more effectively and less stressfully.

The negative side is that opening up about the experience does not come easily to everyone and it comes waaaaay too easily for others. So, if you want others to listen and share you usually need to do the same. And, there will almost ALWAYS be a person in the group who shares too much. The down-side comes with the up-side.

Finding the right group can save you if you feel like you’re drowning in the caregiving experience.

Look around and ask around.

Try this: Find half-a-dozen caregivers who have been involved in groups of some kind and ask them about their experiences. Don’t take one person’s recommendation no matter how strong—positive or negative—they are.

There truly can be strength in numbers. You simply need to find the right numbers. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Basics...Guest Author

As a caregiver, it’s natural to make your loved one a priority. However, it’s necessary to make yourself a priority as well.

When caregivers take on the responsibility of looking after a loved one, they can get so caught up in their new role that they forget to take care of their own needs. It’s certainly tough to juggle two different sets of responsibilities. However, without a healthy balance, caregivers become at risk for low to high levels of anxiety, fatigue, irritability and even depression.

It’s extremely important for caregivers not to forego their own needs while taking care of their loved one. Their physical and emotional wellbeing is just as important as the patient’s. Paying equal attention to both sets of needs can help caregivers stay mentally balanced and strong throughout the caregiving experience.

Meeting Physical Needs

As a caregiver, you may need to help your loved one with a number of physical needs, such as showering, toileting, getting dressed, brushing their teeth and light physical activity. Just as it is essential to help them maintain their physical health, it’s important not to let yours slip by the wayside as well.

Some caregivers find it helpful to set aside a block of time each day to handle their basic physical needs, especially physical activity like walking, jogging, yoga, swimming or biking. Other caregivers prefer to tackle one activity at a time in between caregiving duties. Whichever route you choose, don’t ignore your own physical needs.

Sleep is another crucial physical need – but one of the easiest for caregivers to pass over. You may feel tempted to shave a few hours off each night’s sleep to accommodate your busier-than-ever schedule, but your overall productivity can suffer if you don’t get enough rest each day. Stress-induced insomnia can also complicate your sleeping patterns, but various relaxation therapies or breathing techniques can help you get your sleep schedule back on track.

Meeting Emotional Needs

Caregivers shouldn’t subject themselves to unreasonable expectations. This can readily lead to disappointment and frustration.

You are there to care for your loved one and make them feel as comfortable and happy as possible.  You are not responsible for curing their illness or extending their life span. As you care for them, take a realistic view of what you can and cannot do for them. Don’t beat yourself up for things you cannot control.

Allow yourself to fully feel the emotions that you are feeling, and then look for a way to address them.
·        If you feel overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to take a step back and release your frustration. If necessary, separate yourself from the situation until you’ve returned to a calmer state of mind.

·        Talk to a friend or a fellow caregiver. Simply discussing the challenges can relieve stress.

·        If you’re having trouble identifying or fully coping with these emotions, consider reaching out to a mental health professional  or a support group.

Don’t forget to make time for your favorite stress-relieving activities. Whether it is exercise, meditation, cooking or even just dinner with friends, be sure to give yourself time to engage in these activities to reduce your anxiety in a healthy manner.  When you feel balanced and calm, you’re able to provide the highest level of care to your loved one, which makes the experience more rewarding for everyone involved.

Author bio: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for The Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is living with cancer. asbestos.com

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Work, Caregiving, Work, Caregiving

Have you had the caregiver discussion with the folks at your job?

I'm not talking about the discussion in which you burden and bore everyone with the details about how difficult your caregiving experience is. I'm talking about how your caregiving experience might effect them.

Have you told them that there will be days you'll be getting to work late, leaving early, called away on a moment's notice, taking phone calls from care providers/emergency workers/the care recipient?

Over half of caregivers are still working so the caregiving discussion is being held in millions of workplaces. You are not alone in this.

Some employers are wonderfully understanding, others understand and seem to grudgingly cooperate, and some have a "we have work to do, that's your personal life" attitude.

Sometimes employers are wonderfully understanding at the beginning of your journey but don't realize that it's usually a marathon and not a sprint so they grow increasingly impatient with your caregiving demands.

Let's be honest: Your caregiving experience is YOUR caregiving experience.

Most folks will be supportive to a point but when your experience starts negatively impacting their lives you'll need to find creative ways to fulfill your job responsibilities, do good things for the people who help you and are patient with your challenges, and deal with the people who aren't supportive.

If you've had he discussion and have found ways to stay sane when blending caregiving and your work life leave a comment and let us know how you handled it.