Friday, February 19, 2010

On Being a Caregiver

I need to take my mom's advice and start writing a book that tells it like it is when it comes to being a family caregiver. Something that lets people know just what they are going to be in for, and lets others know that they are not alone in the things they are experiencing.

My siblings have growled about me in the past, have expressed sore feelings about the deal that mom and dad made that I would be compensated for my helping them in the form of inheriting the house and its contents. The predominant complaint is always "What did you do for them?" and I persistently opt out of answering that particular question.

It is not because I don't have an answer to it, but I think that anyone else that provides 24/7/365 care as I do knows that there are a lot of things you prefer to not tell the family members that have never had to see the day to day sides of being a caregiver. And then there are the things they know about, and just ignore, the things they prove they know are an issue every time they say "I'll take dad to that meeting, but only if you come too!" or when they refuse to take him somewhere because it is too difficult to take him. And in particular when they refuse to come say hello to him even when they live less than five miles from him and are out driving about daily anyway.

I think the hardest part of being a caregiver is not the work one must do, but in watching family grow more and more distant and push both you and the care recipient away from them out of... I don't know. I'm not sure why they do it, but even with my constant saying "Please help", "Can you take dad to this..." or "Come visit dad, please?" I have been told that I shove them away and shut them out. My advice to fellow caregivers... be fully prepared not only for a long term unpaid job that will take 99% of your time and cost you most of your personal time, but one that will cause your closest most loves family members to start hating you for no conceivable reason.

Knowing what I know now would I do it all again? Yes. In an instant! I'll be coming out the far end of this completely outcast from my family and despised by all of them as they (according to what some of them have said so far) assure my life is a living hell and I get nothing (not the house I have to buy, not the insurance dad is paying for my eventual payment for caregiving, not even the things I own that are in the house), but I would not do anything different because despite one doctor after another saying my dad had only weeks, my dad has lived for years past where he was expected to have survived. Even within the past few months his heart doctor has said it is fully due to my level of love and care that he survived more than a week past my mom's passing.

Giving a loved one a full, long, happy life is worth any amount of hardship. The only regret I will ever have is that I was unable to somehow stop my mom's passing away, but I know I did my best in every way possible to care for her. There is just too much stress in being a caregiver and like me, she always put dad first, even before her own health.


Anonymous Anita G. Houser said...

Wow, I can very much relate to what you're saying. I've been my mother's caregiver for 1 1/2 years now. I'm now at the point when I am just focused on taking the best care of myself possible so I can be there for my mother and immediate family.

I can not afford to be angry anymore about what others are not doing anymore. And I know I've asked for specific help. So I can rest assured that I'm not pushing anyone out.

It's amazing how everyone handles crisis differently. I get comfort in knowing I'm doing the right thing and that it's no mistake that my mother is with me.

Just going to mind my business (and I've got plenty of it to mind!) and communicate when needed with my sister. It's her business what she does or does not do for her mother. That's what I've come to. Feels much more peaceful. I'm learning to live the Serenity Prayer. It's a day to day process.

1:23 PM  

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