When someone you love becomes seriously ill and you become their caretaker, your relationship to that person changes. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a parent or a spouse, the dynamics are now different.
Sure the old ways of relating are still there but when you make all the decisions about their care, it’s a tall order, especially if you don’t have any medical knowledge, like me.
You want to keep the person comfortable, you want to make good decisions, you want to actually help them get better, yet you don’t really know how.
You don’t really know if you should push them to be independent or if it’s best if you do things for them.
You don’t know what questions to ask them or the doctor.
You don’t know when something is serious and when it isn’t.
Largely, you have a lot of responsibility but very little knowledge on how to carry out that responsibility.
Back in my psychology training days, that was the recipe for stress.
Your loved one depends on you.
They don’t know how you can help them either but you are all they got.
They may not trust you to do everything right.
They may want to dictate to you what to do, possibly because they have lost so much control and controlling you gives them that sense of control.
You may not be good at taking orders, like me. I have never liked being told what to do. Yet, you understand that the person is helpless and dependent so if the roles were reversed, you would want someone to help you. So, you bite your tongue and do your best to care for them and meet their demands.
You feel helpless and sometimes hopeless. You can’t see things improving. You feel like crying but don’t want your loved one to see. You need a break but there isn’t one. You are tired beyond anything you have ever experienced yet nothing you are going through compares to what they are going through.
People tell you to take care of yourself but sometimes you forget to brush your teeth or you’re too tired to take a shower.
You aren’t hungry but then when you are, you can’t figure out what to cook so you eat something available like cookies or chips.
You don’t meditate anymore. You say quick, pleading prayers.
You don’t exercise but you feel your body aching with soreness from lifting wheelchairs and walkers awkwardly and trying to get them into and out of cars.
Your world has been turned upside down and so has your loved one’s life. You need each other but often can’t talk about it without an abundance of tears.
You feel alone even with many people reaching out.
You don’t know what tomorrow will bring but you hope and pray for a miracle.
You have good days and bad days.
You have good reports that are celebrated and bad reports that cause sadness and concern.
You are on an emotional roller coaster and would love to get off but there is no end in sight.
Yes, you’re relationship has changed. They need you. You do your best to meet their needs. Your own needs are put aside. The relationship is no longer a mutual give and take.
Your love is strong but relies on memories to carry you through.
Laughter is seldom.
I never knew what caretakers went through. But, now, here I am. I can say that it’s the hardest job you will ever have.
If you know someone who is a caretaker continue to reach out to them, let them know you are thinking about them and their loved one and that you are praying for them both. Offer meals because that’s the last thing they are thinking about. Offer to sit with their loved one while they run an errand or take a nap. You can ask what they need and they may know but they may not. Ask again later because needs change and even though they didn’t need anything before doesn’t mean they don’t need anything now.
Let them know they are not alone and that you are available anytime to talk or anything else they may need.
My heart goes out to all the caretakers in the world! May you find peace in the middle of stress and joy in your darkest hours because you are not alone and this too shall pass.
Hold on, keep plugging, and don’t look too far down the road. Today is enough to be concerned about. And please know that I love you! I feel your pain. And I’m here for you.