Rachel was exhausted. When we spoke, Rachel’s mom had been living with her for 3 weeks so that Rachel could help take care of her. I asked her how it was going so far.
She said Mom wasn’t sleeping well because of the pain, so she was up several times a night. Mom was still upset about having to leave home. She didn’t understand why she had to move in with Rachel and she really didn’t understand why she couldn’t drive any more. Mom was frustrated and confused and Rachel usually got the brunt of it.
Throughout this conversation, Rachel kept stopping to say how thankful she was that mom was with her and how much she loved her.
Finally, I stopped Rachel and told her the same thing that I tell every caregiver I meet. This is hard. It’s exhausting. It’s ok to be frustrated. It’s ok to be angry. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your mom.
Caregiving is such a hard job. Many of my clients needs some level of supervision around the clock so the caregiver can never truly relax. Like new parents, caregivers are never fully asleep. Part of their brain is still listening for their loved one to stir in the night. On some level, they are switched on 24 hours a day.
Caregivers, many who are older themselves, help their loved ones in and out of bed, the chair, and the shower. They help them bathe and toilet. Often, the loved one is larger and heavier than the caregiver. It is physically demanding work.
The emotional toll is even harder than the physical toll. Whether it is a spouse, sibling or parent, caregivers have moved from family member to caregiver and the dynamic is totally different. The change is hard for everyone, but it can be especially hard for kids. All of the sudden, after a lifetime of the parent telling the child what to do, the roles are reversed and no one is really happy about it.
Caregiving can also be so rewarding. I am not trying to say that there isn’t joy in caregiving. There truly is. So many of my caregivers really are thankful for the time that they get to spend with their loved one and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
But, if you are a caregiver, and you are feeling guilty because you are exhausted and angry, please remember that it is ok. Nurses work in shifts for a reason and you are not alone in your feelings.
I encourage you to reach out to other caregivers. So many people in our society are going through this and it can really help to speak to someone else who is going through the same challenges as you..