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Practical Caregiving

When on the Edge, Take That 'Must' Break

By Jean Donahue

I am just about overwhelmed . . .

Iím having very unkind thoughts . . .

He/she is demanding and unappreciative . . .

My life is so joyless with this burden . . .

I think I will give her/him an ultimatum -- shape up or I am out of here . . .

The negative atmosphere in our home hangs over me like a cloud, so I never relax . . .

The best solution seems to be for him/her to die soon . . .

I now understand the instinct for freedom that humans have, and that's what I want -- freedom . . .

I deserve better . . .

I am tired of all this almost beyond endurance.

If any of those statements sound familiar, it means you are a member of a wonderful group of people -- you are a family caregiver. 

Absolutely every family caregiver has negative feelings like the ones I listed above. Those feelings come and go, but every family caregiver experiences some of them. You are not alone. I had some of those same feelings and thoughts when I was taking care of my parents. 

Someone who has never been a family caregiver may try to understand what itís like to take care of a loved one, but they don't understand. They have never traveled that road, so how can they understand? 

These thoughts and feelings you are having are perfectly normal, so please don't get upset because you have them. What you need to do is find ways to make your life better and more enjoyable. But first letís talk about something that affects you. Itís called "caregiver guilt". You don't want to be in the situation you are in. It seems like it will never end. You want things to be the way they were, but they won't be, can't be. You can't fix the situation. You can't make it "better." You don't like any of it, but you are stuck with it. You want to live your own life without having to take care of anyone. You have had it. Then, you turn around and feel guilty for feeling that way.

Please try to get over the guilty feelings because they will affect your health. These are normal feelings. Try not to feel guilty about them. I know you feel like you are betraying your husband/wife/parent/friend by not wanting to be in this situation, but you are not betraying them. Your loved one doesn't want to be there either, and I am sure he/she has many bad feelings. 

Since you canít improve your situation, what can you do to improve your life? Sound like an impossible question? Well, it isnít. Start on the journey to change your life right now.  

There are three things I believe are most important.

The first one is to change your own attitude. Right now you are thinking about your current situation and how horrible it is. Why donít you start thinking about the good times in the past you had with your loved one? Think of the good things your loved one did. Talk about those times and events with your loved one. Look at family photos and/or movies with your loved one and talk about them. Laugh at the funny things together. Remember the good times together. Remember your loved one as he/she used to be. Try to avoid the extremely bad times. It wonít help either of you to think of those. Talk and think about these things on a daily basis. 

The second is for you to take a break from the caregiving, whether it is five minutes or two hours. Do something you enjoy. Do you have any help? I was able to get the government to pay for help with Mom and Dad. It wasn't a lot of hours at one time, but I was able to get away for an hour or two and do something I enjoyed.

Even if you canít get away very often, find something you enjoy. It will help take your mind off the caregiving. Do you like to read a good book? What about sewing? Whittle? Sing? Play a musical instrument? I hired someone to come in for eight hours a few times while I drove to the covered bridges in Madison County to take pictures. You might want to go to watch a movie and eat buttered popcorn, or go shopping, or go for a walk. While I was home, I learned how to do many things on the computer. Do anything you enjoy that will help you not think about caregiving.

Third, you need to find a way to release your frustration. Write a journal. Walk around the house, or outside if the weather is nice. Scrub the floor. Bake a cake. Wash your hair. Do whatever helps get rid of the frustration as long as it doesn't hurt anyone, anything for yourself.

Oh, and one last thing. Eat right and exercise. I canít stress that enough. If your body feels healthy, it will help your attitude which will help your situation. Have a good day.