A few years ago when I spoke at a conference for family members who were caring for loved ones with Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, I talked about caregiver anger and what I call the “3 Fs of Flipping Out: Fear, Frustration and Fatigue.”
When we broke for lunch, I sat with a group of women who were talking about the physical and emotional stress involved in caring for their husbands. Claudia, a dear older woman who was seated next to me, said, “I’ve got it all figured out. I know how I’m going to get some rest.”
As she started sharing her wacky plan, she had everyone at the table howling with laughter within seconds. She has allowed me to retell her story, and we’ve turned it into a short animated cartoon we call, “Claudia Robs a Bank.”
Although Claudia’s plan to overcome caregiver fatigue is funny, it’s also a little frightening because I think it’s possible that she has actually considered doing something desperate in order to get a little rest. And Claudia isn’t alone.
Many caregivers have sacrificed sleep; however, when we don’t get adequate sleep, it affects our ability to think and reason. It can lead to poor decision making, erratic behavior, and increased falls and accidents. It also can contribute to depression, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. A good night’s sleep can go a long way in aiding you in your caregiver role.
Like sleep, humor can certainly help you get through a multitude of tense, frustrating and stressful moments, but it is critical to know when you have reached your limit and when you need help. Self-care is not selfish. Getting regular respite care could help you maintain the physical and emotional energy you need in order to care for an aging, chronically ill or disabled loved one over an extended period of time. It also could help you avoid doing something radical, risky or even illegal in order to get a little rest.
Elaine K. Sanchez is an author, speaker and co-founder of CaregiverHelp.com, an online caregiver support program. The second edition of her book, “Letters from Madelyn, Chronicles of a Caregiver,” is available now at Amazon.