The Care Giver

The role of Care Giver takes on many forms. If your lucky, you parents were your caregivers when you were a child and lovingly provided for all your needs. As you got older, some of your teachers in school might have helped in providing care to you. Doctor’s and nurses are caregivers to their patients, spouses provide care to each other, and sometimes as your parents age, you may become their caregiver, or you might become the caregiver to a sibling other family member or friend. But what does it really take to provide 24/7 care for someone you love when they can no longer care for themselves? In many cases caring for a baby and caring for an aging parent, or other loved one looks the same. They all have the same basic needs. They need shelter, to be fed, diapers changed or help going to the bathroom, bathed, medications if they need it, and love.

The BIG difference between caring for a baby and caring for an aging parent, or loved one is babies willing accept the care you provide. Sometimes, an aging parent or loved one  will too. But what about when the parent, or loved one doesn’t think they need care? What if they are embarrassed or resentful that they are dependent on someone to provide their daily care? What happens if they become angry or argumentative and reject your attempts to help them? What then? Do you just give up? Do you put them in a Care Center? Some do, and take a tremendous amount of criticism from other family members which in turn creates a tremendous amount of guilt for the caregiver as they begin to wonder if they did the right thing. Did they try hard enough, for long enough and with a willing spirit?

A few days before my father died, just before he agreed to go back to the hospital, he was very sick and very, very weak. My mother needed help caring for him in their home. I lived five minutes away from their house where as my brother’s Danny, and Stephen, lived at least forty-five minutes away. My father was so weak he couldn’t walk without help, and it took both my mother and I to help him get into the bathroom. My father was so embarrassed to have me, his daughter, help him go to the bathroom, he said he would rather wet himself in his chair than have me help him use the bathroom. I understood his feelings of being embarrassed, but still he needed help. My mother would insist he let me help and that would make my father so angry he would refuse all help of any kind. How do you deal with that added pressure on the family when you are just trying to do the best you can to help?

When my father died, and we brought my mother to live with us, for the first few months she was functioning on her own. But after her stroke, she needed a lot of help getting in and out of the shower, going to the bathroom,  and when her medications constipated her, I would have to give her enemas and powerful medications prescribed by her doctor that would often times have the opposite effect causing her to not be able to get into the bathroom soon enough. I can’t tell you how many times I changed the bed sheets, cleaned the floors and bathroom, shower etc. after my mother would lose her bowels.

When my mother was so sick she couldn’t get out of bed, I sat at her bedside and gave her a bed-pan or held a bucket while she threw-up until she cried and told me how she just couldn’t go on like that any longer. I spent hours on end sitting in doctor’s offices, pharmacies and hospitals trying to ensure my mother had the quality of care she needed. I wouldn’t put her in a Care Center for several reasons. First, I promised my father as he lay dying I would take care of mom. Second, mom said she never wanted to have to go to a Care Center, and I knew my younger brother, Stephen, just wouldn’t be able to accept the fact that I couldn’t care for mom at home. So I gave, and gave, and gave, until I finally realized I was giving myself away. Then, when mom had another stroke, the decision was made for me because she could no longer walk and I couldn’t lift her in and out of her bed, chair, etc. alone.

It was then that I came to know that caring for a loved one doesn’t always mean “you” have to be the one providing the quality care. I finally understood I could oversee mom’s care without having to be hands on involved on a daily basis. I finally had to give myself permission to admit that I could no longer provide the quality of care mom needed in my home. I accepted the fact that she needed a skilled, 24/7 nursing facility where they had the staff to provide round the clock care. But, that decision wasn’t easy and it had a very high price. It was the root cause of the problems between my brother, Stephen, and I, and several other extended family members. Regardless of who or what was right or wrong, it caused judgements to be made, feeling to be hurt, and sides to be taken. How quick we are to cast judgements, throw stones and break bonds. Caring for a loved one can, and often does, take family dynamics to a whole other dimension that in my family’s case was nothing less than very sad.

These are but a few of the less than pleasant things a caregiver does for the loved one. A glimpse into the life of a caregiver. It can look easy from the outside when one sees everything under control. Sometimes we see what we want to see. But speaking from my own experience as a caregiver, what I sometimes made look easy, often times was sucking my own life out of me.

If I learned nothing else as a caregiver, I learned you MUST, absolutely MUST, take care of yourself FIRST, and never feel guilty for doing so. That includes making time for yourself, giving yourself a break, as well as taking care of your mental, spiritual and physical self. The best gift you can give the loved one you are providing care for is to take care of their caregiver. And, when the time comes that you are no longer the one to provide the care for your loved one, seek the best professional help you can find, and don’t feel guilty letting go of the caregiver role.

Next: It Wasn’t All Bad!

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gotham girl
    Apr 30, 2012 @ 16:54:12

    There are so many that can learn from this post! xoxo more!

    Reply

    • beyondcinderella
      Apr 30, 2012 @ 20:17:49

      I hope this post does help someone frissy. I don’t think there is enough information out there about what it takes to be a caregiver or what a caregiver needs for themselves and from their loved ones. MORE! GH

      Reply

  2. Cousin Kathy
    May 01, 2012 @ 00:10:08

    Thank you for sharing this post. I too was the caregiver when my mom was sick and she moved in with me as I promised her I would never put her in the skilled care facility but when she couldn’t walk I realized I could not take care of her and my 2 children too. You do have to take care of yourself to effectively be a caregiver to others.

    Reply

    • beyondcinderella
      May 01, 2012 @ 11:28:45

      Thank You for following my blog and for your comments Kathy. I wish more people understood what a difficult job it is to be the caregiver for a loved one, and what an emotional decision it is when you have to put a loved one in a care center.

      Reply

  3. Megs
    May 03, 2012 @ 03:56:10

    Great post! Xox

    Reply

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