If you are the caregiver, it is sometimes hard to admit that you need time apart from the person you care for day in and day out. You love them, you want them to have the best care possible, and you want to be there for the person for whom you care.
But, this often means that you get no private time. There is no time for you to have thoughts for yourself, for you to run errands, or even to just take a walk. Unfortunately, while you think you are doing good, this constant lack of attention for yourself may be hurting both you and your loved one.
When I had a brain tumor operation five years ago, my mother came out to live with me to care for me. Without her help, I am not sure what I would have done. I needed constant care and lived a thousand miles away from my parents and siblings. My boyfriend, now my husband, thankfully had a full time job. My mom dropped everything she had and moved out to Boston to help me so I could literally survive.
My mom learned to deliver my medicine for the nearly deadly infection I developed from the surgery, she learned how to clean my surgical dressings, and she dealt with a patient who knew too much and yet too little at the same time. Day in and day out, my mom was there for me. She would give daily reports to our family, our friends, and more.
I made my mom a deal that she could care for me only if she kept a positive attitude. Given her nature and mine to be “okay, that is great, and let’s now prepare for the worst” type of people that is hard to do, especially when it is your thirty-six year old daughter for whom you have to care. But, my mom did that day in and day out. She was always cheery (I knew that wasn’t true but damn did she do a good job).
Her friends from our hometown would often call and ask how everything was going. Only once did I get to hear the call. Sitting outside on the porch by my bedroom, my mom was talking to her friends. She explained all that was going on, the prognosis, the infections, and how hard it was. I yelled from my room that she needed to stop proclaiming my imminent departure and go where I couldn’t hear her. Okay, she wasn’t exactly killing me off, but it was hard to hear.
I realized later that the problem was that she had no one to share all of her feelings with on a regular basis. She didn’t need a shrink, just her friends. The people at the local deli still love my mom and thank God every time I walk in happy and healthy. My mom befriended them when she would go to pick up lunch or sometimes just when she wanted nice people to talk to every now and then. It was her mental outlet.
Today we stop by with my two year old son and say hello to the nice women who helped care for my mom. We learned that while it is important for the person who needs care to have that care, the one giving that care often needs help too. So, if you are a caregiver, take others up on their offers to give you time off and if there are no offers, tell your loved ones you need help. And, if there is no one, look to on-line communities, daily prayer places or even your local deli. Just make sure to do something for you! I can promise you as the person being cared for, it made a world of difference to know my mom had people to care for her since I could not.