Your Local Senior Placement Service. Call today! 541-954-2602

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Call today! 541-954-2602

Your Personal Senior Living Advisor

Serving Eugene, Springfield and outlying areas

Caregiver demographics:


•    The average age of a caregiver is 49 years old
•    48% of all caregivers are 18-49 years old
•    34% of caregivers are 65+ years old

If you are reading this, you are most likely in an age group of those who feel comfortable using a computer and social media.  But even if you are computer-adept, you may not always know where to look online for help. Our best recommendation: join a support group for people caring for family members with dementia, either in your community or on Facebook. Even if your loved one doesn’t have dementia, these groups can provide excellent help.

Recently, one of the members in a Facebook support group for caregivers asked a straightforward question:
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST STRUGGLE WHEN CARING FOR YOUR LOVED ONE?

 

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In this article, I will address the topics that people struggle with as caregivers.
But first, you MUST understand two important things: 
1.    When the caregiver doesn't care for themselves, the quality of the care they provide becomes significantly compromised. 
2.    When the caregiver doesn't care for themselves, it affects their physical and emotional health.

As part of the support I provide for my clients, I help them find answers to many burning questions. 
I am well aware that sometimes a caregiver may feel that my advice is "easier said than done." It’s even understandable to think "until you walk in my shoes, you can't give me any advice." But I truly believe that a caregiver who can identify any struggle should make every effort to remedy it, even if only partially. 
If you feel like any of the following struggles hit home for you, you'll find this information valuable.

Feelings Of Anger And Resentment


"I feel a sense of obligation," "I feel abused," “the rest of the family bailed out."

Feeling anger and resentment is often the result of your specific family dynamics. Past relationships between you and your loved one or other family members surface in the present situation. Despite complicated relationships, many feel obligated to provide the care for a family member because no one else steps up. And this is how you get into a vicious circle of feeling obligated, resentful, and angry.

Find a quiet place where you can sit and have a "conversation" with yourself or with a person you trust.
For instance, if you’re taking care of a parent,  ask yourself: "Is there anything about them that I DO like? Is there one GOOD memory from growing up that I can think of?"
Is there anything that can make you look at them with some sense of compassion for the helpless person they became?"

If you can find this little light to shine on your parent, hang on to it. Every time you feel resentful and angry, remind yourself of this memory. It will remind you why you made this commitment in the first place.

But if you come up empty-handed re: fond memories,  don’t despair. Remember that there are many ways to provide care, and doing it all by yourself is not the only choice you have. 

Ask for help before you become more emotionally taxed than you can handle. After all, how long is it going to take for your anger and resentment to consume you? How long before you may find yourself responding to your parent with a short temper, or even verbal abuse? When this happens, you will definitely regret it. 
When you feel angry, do you think you provide better care than that provided by a caregiver in a nursing home or assisted living arrangement? It’s quite possible that a person with no emotional baggage concerning your parent may be more patient than you can be - and that’s completely ok.

Feelings Of Loss


"I am losing my loved one to the disease," "I am grieving her loss while she is still alive, "he changes right in front of my eyes."

A person living with dementia experiences a devastating decline in function and cognition, and we can't change this fact. But let’s consider a different perspective on your loved one. 

*Instead of focusing on the losses, focus on the remaining abilities. When they may need help with daily physical activity such as dressing or bathing, allow them to do as much of what they’re capable of, while they still can. You’ll appreciate their small successes. 
*Think of activities that allow them to succeed. Whenever they successfully complete a task, treasure it as a precious shared experience.
*When you share information with other family members, phrase it positively:
Instead of saying: "Dad needs help with dressing himself this morning," say, "Dad  was able to put on his shirt all by himself." Instead of saying: "Mom can't cook anymore," try: "Mom watched me as I made dinner for the both of us, and we talked about her favorite recipes."
*Plan activities that allow you to feel close to your loved one: rub their hands or feet with lotion, comb their hair, sing together. 

When my mother in law was in the late stage of dementia, I used to tell her about her grandkids while massaging her hands with lotion. Of course, I wanted to cry at those moments, but I also felt close to her, and it gave me comfort. 

 

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Hurt Feelings


"He tries to manipulate me," "he calls me names and insults me," she tells me I’m a horrible caregiver."

If your loved one was a nasty and verbally abusive person before falling ill with dementia, then you’re dealing with an already stressful situation that may only get worse.
But if your loved one shows a complete change of personality, know that these words come out of their 'dementia brain’ - it’s not your loved one speaking. This behavior is more common with frontotemporal dementia, where a person loses all inhibition due to damage to their frontal lobe. 

*If your loved one was abusive even before having the disease and their  behavior causing you a great deal of stress, you may want to consider moving your loved one into a senior care facility. Not as a punishment, but to allow you to distance yourself from toxic behavior. This will allow you to visit and be present in their life, but on your terms. Yes, the quantity of time together will decrease, but the quality of your visits will improve.

*If your loved one is exhibiting a change in personality, remember that arguing, scolding, or insisting, “you can't talk to me like that" is a waste of emotional energy. The ‘dementia brain’’ does not have the ability to understand and be logic, and so arguing with them won’t cause them to change their behavior. 

*It’s important to remind yourself that this is not your loved one's fault. When they spew hurtful words, you can step outside the room or take a few deep breaths to calm yourself down. 
You can also chant this helpful mantra for caregivers: "This is the dementia brain talking to me."

 

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Physical and Emotional Exhaustion


"I never get a break," "She is up all night," "If I take my eyes off her, she gets into trouble."

Even Batman had a sidekick to help him fight crime. It is IMPOSSIBLE to be a full-time caregiver with no help and without the occasional break. If you don't get an uninterrupted 6-8 hours of sleep, how can you be expected to function during the day? 
Many studies show that being a full-time caregiver can negatively affect your health. Emotional and physical stress will take their toll on you. And your own health will end up compromising your loved one's care. Go HERE for in-depth reading about the ways you can find help and give yourself a highly-needed break.
A few quick ways to get a short and helpful break can be:

*Take a deep breath while counting to five. Hold it until a count of five. Exhale until a count of five. Repeat these three to five times.
*Take a very long, hot shower.
*Close your eyes for ten minutes.
*Put on your favorite music when you are doing chores. Add singing or dancing if you want a bit of extra fun.
*Sit in your car by yourself and scream at the top of your lungs. Feel free to curse as much as you want!

Impatience


"I can't listen to him again, and again, and again," "I have no privacy or life of my own," "she wants me to attend to her right now."

Impatience with your loved one can stem from a number of issues, some of the most common being: a lack of privacy, insufficient alone time, and over-repetition of tasks. 
Lack of privacy and alone time
If you feel you have no privacy, especially in your own home, or you have no time to 'de-stress,' it isn’t surprising that you may easily get short-tempered and impatient. 

The solution? Find ways to give yourself a break! You won’t believe the difference it make to be able to step away into a space that is yours only. Either take a break wherever you are by using the techniques we’ve discussed above, or you can physically create a small "sanctuary" in your bedroom.

 

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Over-repetition


The person with dementia who asks you the same question every two minutes is acting that way due to their dementia brain. Losing short-term memory will cause them to forget what they asked and what you answered. Getting upset and saying, "I told you already twenty times" is only going to stress them out; and it won’t make them stop asking, because they don’t have control over their leaky memory. This is the exact time that calls for a few deep breaths and redirect the situation. Instead of answering their question, change the subject. You may say, "look, it is almost time for lunch," or you can keep a basket with towels and socks ready and say, "can you help me fold the laundry?"

Feeling Hopeless and Helpless


"There is no light at the end of the tunnel," I am afraid I will get dementia too," "there is nothing to look forward to."

Dementia is a progressive, terminal disease. When we care for a family member with dementia, and especially if we have a family history of dementia, i’s hard not to wonder if this is our future. And it can be terrifying.
There is nothing you can change about this disease except for how you look at your loved one. It is an end-of-life journey. Start collecting the memories of the bright moments in their company, something funny they said, or fun activities together. Cherish the lucid moments and accept their confusion with compassion.

It is important to express your feelings out loud, as it will help relieve the stress of caregiving.
As for the fear of your own future, there’s no point in worrying about something that may or may not happen. However, there are few things you can do to be prepare:
*Get your financial affairs in order
*Have an advance directive and talk to your family about your wishes regarding end of life
*Eat healthy, don’t smoke,  exercise often and get good sleep.

 

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Feeling The Burden And The Reward


"I don't see caring for my loved one as a struggle but as a blessing. Now that he is going on hospice, knowing that I am going to lose him soon, that is the real struggle."

Being a full-time caregiver is not for everyone, but the sense of commitment and obligation drives many to become a caregiver for a loved one. It’s common to hear: "that is what we do as a family." Or perhaps, "my parents took care of me and now is my turn to take care of them."

Most family members’ caregivers feelings about their roles fall into one of these two groups:

It’ a burden: they don't enjoy what they do. They struggle with emotional and physical stress without finding a way to ease the burden. These caregivers will end up paying a high price in the form of failing health, failing relationships, anxiety, or depression. Most of them are stuck in a cycle of feeling obligation, resentment, and then hopeless.

It’s rewarding: These caregivers educate themselves about dementia and look for ways to improve their caregiver skills. They find a way to get help when they need it, take necessary breaks, and strive to take care of themselves. They understand that good caregiving starts with good self-care. They appreciate every joyful moment, as short as it may be. They will create memories of their time together that they will cherish when their loved one’s departure. And most of all, they feel blessed for the opportunity to care for their loved ones with love and compassion.

 

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What Can You Do?


If you feel that being a caregiver is not just a necessary job but also a rewarding one, keep doing what you’re already doing. 
But if you belong to the other group, improve your situation by:
*Educating yourself about dementia in order to understand the many challenges you are dealing with.
*Asking home health services to teach you how to provide proper physical care (dressing, bathing, transfers, fall prevention, etc.).
*Joining a local support group where you can meet other caregivers like yourself in person.

But if you feel that you are still stuck in the same cycle of resentment-anger-frustration-helpless, you always have the option to find a good senior care community for your loved one. It is not a way to abdicate responsibility by "putting them in a home." Rather, it is a way to utilize the talents of a professional caregiver who can take the stress off your shoulders. You can visit as much or as little as you can and want. You can stay involved by keeping an eye on the caregivers when you visit; you’ll be able to check if your loved one is clean, shaved, smells fresh, etc.
A senior care community is another way to ensure that your loved one is being taken care of.

Taking care of your parent is not like taking care of an infant when they grow, mature, and function better over time. With dementia, you will see only decline. Your loved one’s function will regress and time won’t heal their disease. 
While it can be a rewarding journey for some, if you feel otherwise, we would love to help you figure out the best solution for your situation. 


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