Caregiving. How Hard Can It Be?
In 2017 I became my mother’s caregiver after surgery left her in a non-weight-bearing condition for four months. Granted, this was a temporary situation, but it was an eye opener!
My mother had had many surgeries requiring her to have 24-hour caregivers. Some have been great, some have been good, and some have been the worst. This time it was time for me to step-up and be the caregiver, giving respite to family members living in mom's area who were helping her during other surgeries. It was my turn to help. After all, how hard can it be to be a caregiver? So I moved from Ohio and to Texas to take care of mom for four to six months.
I had been in home health care and skilled nursing and thought I was familiar with caregiving even though I didn’t truly do hands-on care. Again I thought, how hard can it be? I soon found out how hard and have a new appreciation for professional caregivers.
Several things make caregiving hard. The hardest is seeing the person you have always thought of as the strongest person in your life now relying on you to do everything for her — toileting, dressing, bathing, and so much more. Often fighting starts as the caregiver and cared-for roles reverse. It’s hard to tell your parent what to do. Eventually you need a break, but there isn’t anyone to relieve you so you persevere. The next thing you know, you realize you have not eaten or showered all day, and you haven’t slept in 24 hours. You're a wreck!
Eventually the stress and tiredness adds up and affects your mental and physical health. For me, I developed anxiety and anger. I began snapping at my mom and others. My blood pressure rose and I had headaches. Finally I had a good friend of mine come stay with mom while I went to the beach for the weekend. When I came back, I was in a much better place mentally and was able to set a schedule that allowed me to have some 'me' time.
A shift in roles, and the change in stress and emotions, is normal and almost certain. Feelings of anger, frustration, isolation, and sadness are normal. This is what is known as 'caregiver stress'. Caregiver stress manifests mentally and physically.
Risk factors for caregiver stress include:
- Being female
- Living with the person you are caring for
- Social isolation
- High number of hours spent caregiving
Like me, you may be so focused on your loved one that you don't realize your own health and well-being are suffering.
Watch for these signs of caregiver stress:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
As a caregiver, you're more likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. In addition, you may not get enough sleep or physical activity, or eat a balanced diet. The emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving can overwhelm even the strongest person. That's why it's so important to take advantage of the many resources and tools available to help you provide care for your loved one. Remember, if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to care for anyone else.*
Whether it’s two hours or 24 hours, Right at Home Hill Country can provide respite from these caregiving duties by placing a trained, committed and compassionate caregiver in the home allowing you to do the things you need to do, take a vacation, or just relax and enjoy some 'you' time.
* © 1998-2020 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).