6 Things to Remember When Being a Caregiver Takes Over Your Life
I'm going to start by admitting one of my major flaws; I'm selfish with my time. I have never wanted children and have even resisted getting a dog because of the level of responsibility. So as you can imagine, when my mom fell and broke her femur last Memorial Day weekend, I wasn't excited to put myself aside. I'm mot made for it, I don't want kids let alone take care of an adult. I had a couple meltdowns with everything that had unexpectedly been put on my plate, but I was determined for us to get through it. I was also mourning the fact that my mom—who had only been living by herself for a year and a half or so (and was doing so well with it after my father left)—had to have her independence ripped away like this. It didn't seem right or fair.
I knew in my mind and heart that things could have been worse. Even though I had zero experience in doing this kind of thing, I got through it and we made it. The whole situation was unexpected, as so many things are, and got more complicated with another find. In her struggle to get up after she fell and broke her femur, she damaged nerves in her hands and that would require surgery, as well, one at a time. Not to mention, that until we could get that done, her hands didn't work well as they were numb and weak. It was a frustrating and helpless time for both of us.
After four long months, she was released to go back to work, and although it wasn't easy for her, it was much welcome progress. Things were going along pretty good for a few months until her pain started getting worse. A doctor's appointment revealed that the bones had not healed as good as the doctor though they did and the pin that attaches the rod has shifted in her hip bone causing pain that will not get better, only worse. It confirmed our worst fears in the situation: surgery. This time it would be a hip replacement.
Now, we are looking down the barrel at an impending surgery once again (the fourth in twelve months) and going through the recovery process once again. On the plus side, at least we can prepare for this one and we have faith that she will feel much better after it is done. It leaves even my mom (whom has a tendency of being a pessimist) feeling hopeful.
I have much confidence that I will have more moments of grace in dealing with something like this a second time around. In fact, I actually started writing this article before I found out about the current situation so now it is truly going to time to practice what I preach and keep all these points in mind in the coming weeks. I hope this helps you as much as it has helped and will continue to help me.
1. Know that you're not alone
I know it feels like it, but I can't reiterate enough that you're not alone. So many millions of people find themselves being caregivers at some point. When I started thinking, I came up with a few friends and acquaintances that I knew who have been or are in a similar situation and I found comfort in knowing that. It also gave me a whole new perspective and respect for those people and anyone going through something like that. I couldn't have understood truly what they were going through with out going through it myself. That was a humbling moment of compassion for me and it also made me realize that our situation wasn't as serious or prolonged as some of theirs.
2. Practice "creative aliveness"
I read about this concept and immediately realized I had started doing this during my moms hand surgeries. Creative aliveness is talked about in the book "Pulling Your Own Strings" by Dr. Wayne Dyer. It's the ability to be in any place and/or any situation and figure out how to make it not only positive, but maybe even enjoyable. It's a way of not being victimized by your surroundings or circumstances. Before I was aware that this was a "thing," I think back on times where I really could have applied this technique, while other times, it came naturally. Sometimes, I found reasons to enjoy getting up early for all of the appointments (despite working nights) and found that even though I was physically and emotionally drained, work became a safe-haven of normalcy for me. This next time around, I'll be very proactive in applying creative aliveness to all of the moments I would normally wish I were somewhere else doing anything else. What freedom this brings.
3. Know there will be good and bad days
Just as with anything else in life; there will be good days and bad days. I'd have moments where I'd feel accomplished in my responsibilities and that things were on the up and up, then have them feel like they were crashing down. Usually for me, it was just my emotions that varied from day to day and not something tangible like my mother's condition, luckily. Her healing was taking place at its own, slow but steady pace and the rest was left to the emotional well being (or lack thereof) of my mother and I on any given day. The thing to keep in mind is, and it's so simple, when you do have a bad day, you are that much closer to a better day.
4. Find pockets of joy and normalcy where you can
This one was big for me. Whether is was stealing 30 minutes to lay in my pool or grabbing a quick lunch with my husband, I was able to find moments where things almost felt normal. When mom got a little more mobile, I was able to stretch the time from a few minutes, to an entire afternoon. Once she was got to where I didn't need to help her during the night, I was able to sleep in my own bed and just stop by daily. Everyone's situation will be different, but try to find those times where you can do something that makes you feel like you.
5. You will get better at it
When I was unexpectedly thrust into that situation, I'd hardly ever visited someone in the hospital, let alone spent any time there at all. Then this situation happened and I was so ignorant to every aspect of it, I resented never having had a hospital stay, as weird as that sounds. I didn't know how the hospital worked and that should have been the easy part. Then I had to continue care at home; how was I supposed to do that? But you know what, with each set of steps that I took backwards, I also took one forward. You will learn, grow, and get into the swing of it and that in itself makes things easier.
6. It's temporary
No matter how dyer the situation is, it's temporary. We were very fortunate that it was just broken bones. Some people aren't so lucky and there is a terminal illness or disease that needs to be managed for the span of a lifetime. Know that even if it's forever for the person, it's temporary for the caregiver. I know that the idea may not be comforting and it may seem so bleak but it doesn't make you a bad person for knowing that. In fact, I think in those most extreme circumstances, it's only bound to make you a better caregiver, embrace it for what it is.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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