In our Blog called the "Caregiver 500", we describe this role as a race in which the Caregiver is the race car in it. We took this point of view because one truly becomes a machine. It is a way for us to deal with all of the stress and emotional challenges a Caregiver will face while caring for another person.
When a loved one returns home after rehab or when we first find ourselves in this role, adrenaline take over - foot on the floor, peddle to the metal, go. go. go. and go. Go. Go. Go and Go and keep going, still going, and going and going and going! I think you get the point.
Since we do not know any better, we deal with these responsibilities as the Caregiver as if they are short term. That is our expectation. No one ever imagines themselves doing this long term which unfortunately is the #TheRealityOfTheCaregiver!
You are the Caregiver of your aging parent or loved one until the status quo changes. This may be years. Just like the tires on a car, there is going to be wear and tare. Unless you make a conscious effort to maintain the race car, if you don't it may end up with a flat tire, out of gas, burnt out engine and lots of rust on the side of the road. For a Caregiver who does not address their needs while on this journey, they will encounter what is being called - "Caregiver Stress Syndrome."
"Caregiver stress syndrome is a condition characterized by physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. It typically results from a person neglecting their own physical and emotional health because they are focused on caring for an ill, injured or disabled loved one."
"There are a number of factors that can play a role in caregiver stress syndrome. For some it is the constant demands of caring for a person who has a serious illness can result in burnout. For others, it is the lack of boundaries between their roles as a caregiver and a spouse, child, or other loved one can be challenging. For others, they put unrealistic expectations on themselves, thinking that they can do it all and refusing to ask for help. This may often be because they don’t want to be a burden on anyone else. Other caregivers are simply frustrated by the overwhelming needs of their loved one, or the financial and other resources needed to care for someone with a long-term illness or disability.
Caregiver stress syndrome is strongly associated with negative health outcomes from depression, to anxiety as a result of the stress associated with providing care. Anger and irritability are also common symptoms of caregiver stress syndrome. The chronic stress may also lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, and a compromised immune system."
The SUM of our Experiences
This is all very real. Caregivers will disregard their own well being. They neglect doctor visits, miss making appointments for those mandatory annual exams such as mammograms and other screening. They do not make any time for their own health care needs. Ironic isn't it?
There is a price for this type of self-neglect - eventually the Caregiver becomes the patient. When my sister was caring for our Dad, she never made time for herself to do those necessary annual exams. Just recently, she had a double mastectomy. They found breast cancer that could have been treated differently had she only made the time for an annual exam years ago. Had she made herself a priority over the past ten years by going on those appointments regularly instead of focusing on Dad only, life would have been very different for her today.
What you do not do for yourself will take its toll on you over time. Use the tools and resources that you'll find on our website to create a better opportunity for yourself - relying on Home Care Services, building a Care Team, taking mini breaks; will yield a more successful outcome.
Part of the formula for success as a #NewCaregiver is setting expectations with yourself and with the person you are caring for. Stop being the child! This is a new relationship with your parent, we understand that- but you are no longer in the role of their child. You are their Caregiver now.
Setting expectations means that you become part of the schedule and task list. It means that you are clearly identifying your needs as well as their. Just as you are setting the time for them to take their med or have lunch, you are setting the time for your 5-10 minute break - time for a walk, time to meditate, time for your spouse.
Unless you make yourself a priority, no one else will. As you make their doctor appointments, schedule them around your own!
This is not being mean. This is not being abusive to your loved one. This is not you disregarding your loved one. This is you keeping yourself healthy so that you are able to continue caring for them!
Our goal at the AgingParentsMarketplace.com is to help Caregivers become Empowered - Not Overpowered in this role. It is going to be a long journey and no one is able to do it alone. My sister and I understand.