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The Roller Coaster of Caregiving

By Jane Cassily Knapp, RN, LCSWC
(Page 3 of 4)

Now let’s look at

Scorekeeping—Who did what, when? Who did more? Whose turn is it? Who never takes a turn? Who is the most exhausted? There is no equality in caregiving as in parenting. Be careful not to fall into this pit. It will only add to further family discord.

Advise Givers—Sometimes those family members who, for various reasons, are not the primary caregivers attempt to make themselves feel less guilty or more involved than they actually are by stopping by weekly or monthly to loudly advise the caregiver regarding all the things you aren’t doing adequately for “Mom” or all the ways in which you need to improve your caregiving.

Don’t allow yourself to be hurt by these people. Just let them vent. They are only trying to take care of themselves. It’s not really about you or the quality of your caregiving. You may choose to respond by saying, “I know it must be very hard for you to not be able to be here as often as you would like to be and not to be able to do the things for Mom that you wish you could.”

Overcoming Losses

One thing that is often overlooked by the caregiver and other family members is the impact of the losses for both the caregiver and the dependent family member. A wife may miss the husband she has known and loved for many years. She experiences the loss of the friend with whom she has shared interests and confidences. Who was her companion for parties, grocery shopping, going to church or just taking a walk or watching TV together. Not only have you lost your friend but now you may have to take on the roles that this person used to hold within the relationship

like financial responsibilities and household jobs.

You may feel guilty, angry, and sad for feeling like “this isn’t the person I married.”

The dependent loved one experiences many losses as well. Their lifestyle, their independence, their jobs (at home and/ or at work), their health, friendships with co-workers or others are now cut off. Others now see them as invalids but they may feel like screaming “I’m in here and I’m a person!” It’s very hard to tolerate a constant state of dependence.

On whom do we find it easiest to take out our frustrations? The person we love, of course. When we are totally dependent on that person, we often take out our anger and frustrations. This can make for very difficult times.

Ambivalence—We may find ourselves saying “I want to do this…I don’t want to do this…..I wish this was over…” Does that mean I don’t love this person? “Sometimes I daydream about their funeral. Sometimes I wish they had died while they were independent and not survived to be in this state. What’s wrong with me….sometimes I wish they were dead.” Does that mean I’m terrible?
You are not terrible for thinking these thoughts. You are not wishing the person you love is gone; you are wishing this state of constant caregiving and decreased quality of life for your loved one are gone. You are wishing your exhaustion and frustration are gone. That is why you need to improve your self caregiving. Your dependent loved one is counting on you to be there for them but you can’t do this if you don’t take care of yourself.


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