Saturday, May 18, 2013

You're Going to Have to Cowboy Up

Here’s the tough news I hate to give you: You’re going to have to Cowboy Up and be a caregiver.

My friends out west who use the phrase say that Cowboy Up means you’re going to have to toughen up and make some difficult decisions and do some difficult things.

I had to be a caregiver for my father and I’m having to be a caregiver for my mother. I didn’t want to do it for my father, and I don’t want to have to be a caregiver for my mother, but I did it and I’m doing it.

That doesn’t mean by any stretch of the imagination that I didn’t love my father nor do I not love my mother.

But, caregiver duties are sometimes so difficult and challenging—not just the duties themselves, but the feelings those duties bring with them—that they bring a wild range of conflicting feelings.

Guilt, anger, fear, frustration, irritation and even anger are all part of the caregiving experience; just as joy, fun, laughter, happiness and satisfaction come with caregiving.

And, though research shows that the quality of the relationship you had with the person for whom you are caring often determines the type of experience you have as a caregiver, no matter how wonderful your previous relationship has been with the person for whom you are caring you’ll still have, at times, negative feelings.

You can not feel guilty about having down times and negative feelings…although you will.

The up-side is that being able to Cowboy Up builds courage and character. And, you’ll be able to take the courage and character you’ve learned into the rest of your life. 

You’ll discover that the courage and character you develop starts to affect other areas of life; your family, your work, your spiritual life, your physical life, even your ability to create and reach bigger and better goals.

Whether you believe it, or even know it or not, being able to Cowboy Up may be the greatest gift caregiving brings to you.

1 comment:

  1. So, I have to "cowboy up." I suppose that is what I've been doing these past five years, with more or less success, as I've watched both parents sink into the darkness of dementia. My husband and I left our lives behind to move near my parents because my mother had difficulty moving and needed some help. Soon after we arrived, "all hell broke loose," as my 90-year-old friend put it! We quickly discovered that my once intelligent, hard-working father was losing it. And Mama's problems went far beyond just physical. Her ability to process information and execute were severely compromised. PLUS, she was totally incontinent and moved at a snail's pace. No exaggeration. It wasn't so bad as long as she could change her own pads, but that ceased over a year ago. Now she must have help with everything. The only thing she can do is feed herself. Daddy is now in the moderate stages of Alzheimer's. They live upstairs in their own home behind us, and a caregiver lives in their downstairs apartment. I take care of Mama one and a half days a week when the caregiver is off, plus I help with her shower and any other time the caregiver can't get Mama up, which happens more and more frequently these days. I manage all the finances, doctor appointments, insurance, and medications as well as all shopping and ordering of supplies. Both parents have become childlike, paranoid, and obsessive. Yes, there were moments of laughter and joy early on, but these times are few and far between as the dementia progresses. Bottom line: I'm at the end of my rope. Now the caregiver has medical problems and wants to cut way back on her hours. I'm thinking Mama would be better off in a nursing home where they could move her more easily and better manage the extreme pain she feels when sitting and standing. But then Daddy would be by himself all the time. I'd check on him regularly, but he would never consent to come to our house. I don't know what to do. I can't be there 24/7 taking care of both of them and totally neglecting my husband. Mainly because it would drive me crazy. Wish I was a different person. Maybe then I could handle it.