November 2016 is National Family Caregiver Month. This year’s theme is Take Care 2 Give Care. In honor of that I am rolling out a new series. What Have You Done for Yourself Lately?
It’s not only for the month of November. Let’s see how long I can post each week on this topic.
Right now I am doing nothing….but never fear…read on.
We’ve been taking care of my grandmother with dementia for more than 5 years. For the last two years, we have lived with her full-time. My husband, myself and my three kids. The three kids are home-schooled and now have this blog. Can I tell you I’m tired?
The longer I am a caregiver the harder it gets. Whether in our work or home most jobs or responsibilities usually get easier over time. We learn a new skill. Master getting that job done in an efficient and timely manner. Get to know the people involved on a deeper level. Learn tips and tricks of the trade. Utilize mentors in the field.
Caregiving doesn’t work that way, at least for me it hasn’t. Duties involved in caregiving get increasingly more difficult. Just when you think you learn something, everything changes. The more it changes the more it stays the same.
What the hell does that mean?
In our house, we are dealing specifically with dementia. There are several types of dementia and they can have different causes, some of which are unknown. There are many symptoms that happen to all dementia patients, some to only a few. Often they happen in a different order or never at all. Some symptoms change daily within the same person.
Today Grandma seems just like her old self. Then two hours later she exhibits behavior that is completely foreign to her regular personality and you may never have seen before.
You really just never know. You can’t count on anything but being consistent in the inconsistency. There are days that seems like I am in the movie Groundhog Day and then something crazy happens to throw everyone for a loop.
I realize many things in life are like that. However, I have yet to see anything that compares the roller coaster of dementia. The books and stories I have read about often leave me with my mouth hanging open. Usually followed by thoughts of “Oh, God I hope it doesn’t get that bad for us.” Then guilt, since the only way out of that horror early is death.
Any form of elderly caregiving brings the unique challenge that things will definitely get worse and you aren’t exactly sure when, how or how fast. With every day and new symptom you are faced with ever-increasing responsibilities.
You may wonder how am I going to handle it all? Whether you have help or not, you will need a break. If you don’t plan for this like you plan for each piece of your loved ones care, it won’t go into the schedule.
If you don’t plan for this almost sure you will be overextended, overtired and won’t be able to take the best care of your loved one. It’s like the saying when you fly, “put on your oxygen mask first before you help anyone else.” It really is true.
Many caregivers end up sick themselves simply because they put so much of themselves out there that they neglect themselves. The stress level is high and the price is higher.
Take it from someone who knows, someone who’s been there, someone who is still there. This challenge is for you, it is for me, it is for all of us who need to do this to survive this journey most people don’t trek.
With that cheery intro to my normally funny posts, this series is going to focus on you. The hard truth is, if you don’t, no one else will. So this is all about us baby and it’s about time.
Recently I hit a wall. Just a meltdown I wanna curl up in the fetal position kinda mood. Of course, I can’t do that with kids to teach and poop to clean up. The adult kind, not the kid kind. So. Not. Fun.
A few times before I have hit a wall. Then after a small temper tantrum, I just went back to doing things as usual. My husband usually responds by asking what he can do.
Well really since he’s at work for 12 hours a day and can’t really change that. I’m tired and just want to see him when he gets home, not much. We’ll get back to that.
In this part of the post, I originally ranted about how no one in the family, outside our house, helps me. That doesn’t matter anymore. Whether they help with my grandmother or not, it’s up to me to take care of myself. Besides, if my family saw it, I would just feel bad and that wouldn’t help or change anything. Not that they even know this blog exists. 😉
I am not telling you all of this to make you feel bad for me, but because I am willing to bet you are just like me.
If you are a caregiver I am going to guess a few things. You’re tired. There is a really high chance that you have no help. If you have family they are either really good at avoiding helping or they tell you what you are doing wrong. Are struggling with your own feelings wondering if you are doing a good enough job? Feeling guilty when you try or even think about doing something for yourself?
Almost every caregiver I talk to seems to have the same problems. No help, no support, some of them are struggling financially. Some of them are not only losing themselves but put their whole lives on hold or crumbling because they are giving everything they’ve got to taking care of their loved one. Therefore, they are making themselves sick.
They are skipping wellness checks, not eating or sleeping as good as they should and forget time for relaxation. The constant demands are taking its toll. If they go down who will pick up the torch. Likely they’ll just be run over. Or at least that’s how we feel.
I keep asking if there’s a sign on my back that says, “Shit Here.” For caregivers, some days that’s exactly what happens. Literally!
On top of all of this, many of you are still raising kids or grandkids as well as working outside the house or even have a job from home. That’s a full plate. No one can do it all.
Ask me how I know? You can try. But either everything is half-ass or somethings just aren’t done at all. Again, ask me how I know? Lemme tell you, now it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I have no idea what’s for dinner. I am still in my pajamas and I haven’t brushed my teeth.
Anyhoo, probably too much info for you. Did I warn you I’m an oversharer? You might have seen it on my About Me page.
Back to my meltdown and this series. Have you ever been told it’s just better to be specific when asking or offering help? Well, that’s what my husband did. He insisted that once per week without fail I go out somewhere.
He’s an extrovert, so the ideas he had were not really what I had in mind. After almost 30 years, I just went along with the suggestions, figuring as long as I actually get out, the rest I plan myself. Though I have to say finding out that our local gym has a steam room and a bed that shoots water jets up to massage you without getting wet sounded pretty good.
So here I am putting myself out there to prove it can be done.
This didn’t just start with taking care of my grandmother. My oldest is 14, I have neglected myself for a long time. I am done. My mind and body cannot take it anymore.
Take Care 2 Give Care
I can’t be an effective and compassionate caregiver or a loving wife and mother if I don’t do this. I used to be a cheerful, happy person.
To tell the truth. In my mind, that girl got lost about years ago. Sometimes she wanders back on the path, but too often she is waiting in the wings for her turn instead of coming out to play with everyone else.
In this series, I am going to challenge myself to do one thing every week. That means out of the house without my grandmother, without my kids and grocery shopping doesn’t count.
Every week, I am going to report back to you, telling you where I went and what I did, ideally somewhere different every week. Furthermore, I won’t just give you ideas for what you can do in addition, I’ll let you know how it made me feel and hopefully the impact it has on me and my family. Changing the way we do somethings around the house is going to help.
I’d love if you took the challenge with me. It’s hard. Maybe no one will help you. Sometimes you just have to keep asking.
Let me know in the comments or shout out to me on Instagram @pardonmemycrownslipped with the #whathaveyoudoneforyoulately #takecare2givecare #NFCMonth and tell me What Have You Done for Yourself Lately?
Now…baby steps…off to brush my teeth 😉
Ready for what happened next?….Click here for What Have You Done for Yourself Lately? #1.
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