A Slow Progression of Duties:
Caretaking is a loving act. It is an act of one person caring for another. It often starts out small. Stopping by to check in with Mom. Giving Dad a little help with his checkbook. Setting up your parent’s weekly medication so they take the right amount on the right day. Maybe, you begin to take up the slack with the daily chores because your loved one can no longer do it for themselves. But soon you notice that the little things are starting to take up a big chunk of your life.
Sometimes it comes out of the blue in one fell swoop. Your loved one receives a shocking diagnosis, or there is a catastrophic injury. Whatever the reason, like a thunderclap, your loved one needs a lot of your help. If you decide to step in and assist your suffering loved one, you become a full fledge caretaker.
As a regular helper to a disabled, deteriorating or sick loved one, you may not even identify yourself as a caregiver. You just simply believe that helping is what you do. The thoughtful contributions can start out small and simple so they are overlooked. Even the loved one who at first was so grateful begins to expect the help and maybe even becomes a little demanding. The people around who use to pitch in begin to fade away. There are the daily struggles, but often there are surprising joys. As with taking care of a child, the love and closeness can be a reward in and of itself. But that doesn’t mean that a toll isn’t being taken on the caregiver. They may begin to neglect their needs, spend less time with others they love and reduce their time for sports, hobbies or social fun.
There are Legions of Caregivers in the U.S:
I read there are over 40 million people who provide unpaid care to the disabled or ill. A quarter of those givers have been in their helping roles for five years or longer. Many of these loving helpers are going it alone. Only about half of the family caregivers reported that they receive any regular unpaid help from other family members or friends.
What should a Caregiver do when it gets to be too much?
Simple answer: Reach out. Let others in the family and friend circle know you need help. Don’t play the martyr instead be calm, down-to-earth and honest. Make a list of all you do and the time it takes you. Then ask for help. If others don’t pick up the slack, it is time to take care of yourself, reach out to your county’s free services, get support through counseling, see if your church will help or look into paid services. You do not need to work yourself to the bone. Figure out what you can reasonably handle and find other ways to fill in the gaps. You do not need to feel guilty but instead, empower yourself to set healthy boundaries for yourself.
You have chosen to be a caregiver but not a martyr for the cause. It is OK to ask for help and receive it. For additional help, go to www.supportivetalk.com and read: Caregiver Burnout, Top 12 Steps to Self-Care, Gifts to show you Care or set up a chat with Vicki.
(Written by Vicki Langemo, LPC, MA, October 2015)
For other resources, try these books, “Help on the Way” by Chris Oretis or
“Stages of Senior Care” by Paul Hogan and Lori Hogan. CD: Relax, Unwind & Sleep which can be bought on Amazon or downloaded on Itunes.