Caregivers can find themselves starring in their own private version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Need an example? Start with me.
A week ago, I was “Ms. Hyde” as I reached the breaking point when interacting with Dad. I woke up each morning “mad” and that feeling wouldn’t diminish for most of the day. When he would ask me to do something for him, I’d get huffy. When he didn’t do an easy task and left it for me, I barked out a criticism.
Stress buildup when caring for elders
Let me give you a little background. I haven’t gone out of town for more than two nights in a row while Dad has lived with me. While those short trips are nice, they don’t provide the deep rejuvenation that helped me stay on an even keel as I dealt with the challenges of caregiving.
And those challenges started cascading in February when Dad fell three times over a 24-hour period and then again in March. He didn’t break any bones, but he did shatter his confidence, thus causing him to behave in a way that made him increasingly dependent and helpless. That left me feeling more tethered to the house than normal. And being a very independent person without children, I didn’t adjust well to having to follow behind Dad trying to pick up, clean up or deal with whatever he had left behind.
Interestingly, I didn’t experience this type of stress when caring for Mom. Admittedly my relationship with my mother was historically better than the one with Dad. However, I chalk up the difference in stress levels to the different type of caregiving I provided. Mom was in a nursing home’s locked unit for Alzheimer’s patients so she had regular care from health care professionals. That left me to be the advocate for her, instead of having hands-on responsibilities.
Taking time to recharge batteries
In my current situation, Dad lives with me, which means I am available 24/7 to offer support. As a friend who has experience in caregiving wisely said, “Dorian, you are doing the work of three eight-hour employees every day.” When that message sank in, my crankiness really set in. And when you think about the stress that’s involved, you can definitely see how elder abuse can happen (which I am happy to report didn’t happen here).
Another article discusses caregiver guilt associated with vacations, and the need to find substitute care to allow you to take off some time.
It’s important to take a vacation every now and then. Just a week away thanks to my brother who stayed with Dad has left me mentally refreshed and physically relaxed. And that’s translating into a nicer version of me (a Dr. Jekyll) when I interact with Dad. So I’ve vowed — and I hope you will, too — to take regular vacations while caregiving. They can lower your stress level and help you be a more compassionate and helpful caregiver.Posted in Caregiving, Stress | 12 Comments »
Tags: caregiver respite, Caregiving