Hey Caregiver – Who Has Your Back?

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Caregiving – the rewards are great but so are the stresses. So, what will your older loved one do if you get sick or experience an added family emergency? You’d better have a back-up plan and people who do have your back.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Caregiving has all the features of a chronic stress experience: It creates physical and psychological strain over extended periods of time, is accompanied by high levels of unpredictability and uncontrollability, has the capacity to create secondary stress in multiple life domains such as work and family relationships, and frequently requires high levels of vigilance.”

When you first started your “job” as a caregiver, how long did it take before you knew it was stressful? I know. You told yourself, “I can handle it, it will get better, etc.” But this journey into caregiving is not something you should do alone. Stress can take its toll and you will need help at some point along the way. The best time to make sure you have the help you need is to plan for it.

I’ve seen the hardships and strains of caregiving in my mother. The first time she had to be a caregiver to my father she was in her late 60’s. She did fine. She is strong. She is dedicated. But now, in her 80’s she’s once again had to assume the role of caregiver to my father. To say the least, it hasn’t been a piece of cake. The strain is showing. She’s tired a lot. Her memory is slipping. I’m as worried about her as I am about my father. No, she hasn’t been in and out of the hospital or is suffering from an obvious health issue, but I know her. The stress is very hard on her.

So, I’m stepping up more now. I do what I can as often as I can. I do have my momma’s back. But there are a lot of you out there that aren’t as fortunate. So many of us hate to ask for help. We think it’s a sign of weakness. What would momma think if I asked someone else to help out? That would be the first thing that would go through my head. You know what I’d tell myself? GET OVER IT!

If you want to survive and be there for you older loved one you’re going to need some back up. Find out who you can call on. Sometimes it’s your best friend. Sometimes it’s a family member. Don’t take “no” for an answer from the family. Put it on them. Tell them they need to step up.

For me, it’s my daughter and two sons that have my back and they’re often over to help my momma. But I have a wonderful close friend and an ex-husband that will also step up. The more people you can count on the better. It’s also important to check out your parent’s health insurance. Many of them offer in-home care, although it’s usually limited. Recently, my father was very sick but refused to go to the doctor. I let his regular physician know and they actually sent a doctor out to the house.

So please don’t wait until you are sick or have an added family emergency before you get some back up. Fail to plan — plan to fail they say and it’s true.

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