Don’t you love the advice given by periodicals, talk shows and the internet on how to age or be a caregiver? Everyone has advice but no real solutions. Until you do it, no one realizes how much time it takes to “Give Care.”
The caregiver role for a loved one is beyond stressful! I toileted and bathed my Mother a few times and it is a pressure-filled task, for both the caregiver and the recipient. Mother was less upset when I assisted her, but she was always embarrassed and humiliated. Imagine if a ‘diaper change’ is coming from a person who was once your lover. I had a friend (now deceased) who was told there was ‘nothing more they could do for her.’ She insisted on hiring professional caregivers until she died because she wanted to enjoy her husband as her soulmate, not as her caregiver. We encourage that behavior but understand that not everyone has the resources to hire professionals.
There is also a tension between the caregiver and the recipient. I watched it with an Aunt and her live-in son. He was resentful of all the time she required, and she was resentful of his resentment. After all, she owned the house! When you’re the needy person, you don’t want to be dependent and, no surprise, you take it out on the person giving the care.
Here’s the worst part, the caregiver’s stress level is significantly higher than the recipient’s. Ergo, caregiver’s tend to be ill more often and predecease their recipient. Studies show that caregivers feel this tremendous guilt – like a survivor’s guilt because it didn’t happen to them. GET OVER IT! I took care of Mom and when I had to do the toileting and bathing and it was not what she wanted. After we moved her into a facility our time together was much more precious. I loved fussing… putting lotion on her, cutting her nails, singing with her… the quality of the relationship was enhanced a thousand-fold and our times together became happy memories.
I urge at-home caregivers to find the right facility for your loved one. This isn’t always easy but it’s often because we don’t want to admit that our loved one is as ill as they are. I get it, I feel for you and I wish I could make that journey easier. No one can, but once on the other side you will love them more and have true quality time. There is a tinge of guilt every time you say good-bye, but you have to remember the minute you’re gone, you’re forgotten.