Licensed Psychological Associate
I have experienced the challenges of care giving myself, at the current time; I no longer fill that role. Now, I listen the stories of my friends and clients who are caring for their loved ones. One friend shares that her new routine is that after putting in a full day’s work she drives 30 minutes to the assisted-living facility to handle the day’s crisis or just to bring her father something he has requested.
When she gets home, her family has already eaten, the good news, but left the kitchen a mess. They do not understand why she is so tired and stressed as they have helped by cooking dinner. She feels guilty not spending more time with her dad, and for not spending enough time with her family and for being exhausted at work. She feels she can’t win!
She describes feeling sad and frustrated that she has abandoned her own exercise program. She now has flare-ups of chronic back pain from lifting and moving her dad… I can see her disappointment in the many pounds that she had gained, after working so hard the year before to lose them. She has given up her goal of a half marathon, she says it’s okay as caring for family is more important, but I see her sadness.
She shares her anger that her brother and sister who live further away, seem to be carrying on with their lives as usual, while she is the only one sacrificing. She describes having to make all the decisions for her father’s care and then explain herself to her family.
As I listen I understand exactly how she feels. Caring for my parents was a difficult period for me and I experienced all of the emotions she was describing… Admitting to her intense feelings of anger—at the situation, at her sister who lived on the other side of the country, and at her family for not helping more.
The Side Effects
Thrust into a position of attending to an elderly and/or disabled loved one, caregivers often sacrifice their own physical and emotional needs. Feelings of anger, anxiety, stress, isolation, exhaustion and guilt are all too common–not to mention the increased risk for health problems as well.
Research has shown that these symptoms are even more pronounced in those caring for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Research has also shown that the feeling Margie and I experienced are normal but there are several benefits to sharing your feelings and concerns with a qualified professional.
Doing so certainly helped both my friend, Margie, and I in our times of need, and I recommend it to anyone both experiencing the stresses of care giving and looking forward to a healthier, happier life.
If you are a care giver, make sure you find someone that you can talk to and share your feelings.