Caregiving is one of the most difficult jobs you may ever have. Even nurses and doctors have difficulty with very sick patients, but it is far more complicated when the one you are caring for is a loved one. You may find that your loved one resents you helping them, is embarrassed because of their inability to take care of themselves, and denial of the severity of their symptoms. It can make you feel ways that you would never feel about your loved one before.
For instance, if your loved one has had a stroke, you may be the only caregiver they have. Caregiving is a stressful job, and it is important for you to get away from that stress for a time. It isn’t wrong to need a break from the constant demands of your loved one. If you have close family, you can ask someone else to help out while you take a break. If not, nursing homes have a special program called respite care. This means that you loved one will stay in the facility for a short time while you recuperate. You than pick them up and take them back home. It is important to find a way to get free of the pressure for a little while so that you can decompress and focus on something other than your loved one.
When a person decides to be a caregiver, it is easy to disconnect yourself from the social activities that you enjoyed. It can seem like your whole life is taken up by dealing with the person you are caring for. Many caregivers feel guilt because the person that they take care of is usually precious to the caregiver. However, this isolation with only your charge is sure to drive you crazy if you don’t take a few steps to prevent it.
Respite care and family are two possibilities to escape the social isolation. You can do other things that help with caring for yourself. You cannot effectively care for others if you don’t take care of yourself. If you can’t leave your loved one for too long, try to reach out to friends and family via phone, internet, or text. It is now so easy to connect to people that this can keep you from feeling so isolated. Depending on your loved one’s needs, a party or a trip to a restaurant with friends can also help you to get over the isolation . . . and increase your loved one’s social isolation, as well.
Frustration and Anger
It is easy to feel frustration and anger when taking care of your loved one. Sometimes this leads to guilt, but sometimes it can turn into possible neglect of your loved one. It is hard to accept, but frustration and anger are virtually unavoidable. You may feel like your loved one wants all of your attention, or you may feel that they are lying about how much help they really need. Some stroke survivors are like this, adding to the frustration, but usually the actually need the help that you can give them. Not only is this frustrating for you, but for your loved one, as well.
The question is how to get out of the situation. It doesn’t mean that you love your stroke survivor less, or that you aren’t up to the situation. Anger and frustration are common human emotions when dealing with someone who is sick. What you need is an outlet. Yes, family can help, but it is important for you to spend every day taking a few moments for yourself. While your loved one is sleeping, take time out to have a cup of coffee and read a good book. Therapy, respite care, and family members can help ease the anger. That may be short lived, though. You have to find a way to take time for yourself, regardless of the help you get. If you want to control your frustration, take care of yourself in addition to your loved one.
Although you try hard to be compassionate to your loved one, there is such a thing as compassion fatigue. It doesn’t mean you don’t care anymore, and it doesn’t mean that you have no compassion for your loved one. Compassion fatigue is merely a state of taking care of someone else’s needs before you take care of your own. If you find yourself angry and irritable about caring for you loved one, you may have this condition.
Therapy and respite care are two ideal ways to ease you stress and compassion fatigue. However, none of this will matter if you don’t take care of yourself. You have to find a way to get some space in your life where you can be you, not the caregiver. Watch tv or movies while your loved one sleeps. Leave them with a relative while you go to a spa for the day. Find people who are willing to help you carve out a few hours of time for yourself. It will make you feel better and increase your ability to care for your loved one.