While doing some research and reading on caregivers, I came across the following:
While many caregivers find much meaning in being able to help a loved one, there are health risks associated with long-term caregiving:
- 80% of caregivers say they feel a great deal of stress.
- 50% have clinically significant depression.
- Anxiety is higher in caregivers than non-caregivers.
- Caregivers have more physical health problems.
- Strained caregiver spouses are at increased risk of dying.
- Caregivers have poorer immune system function and slower healing of wounds.
- Caregivers experience more colds and other viral illnesses.
How many family caregivers have you come into contact with or have known that reflect any of the above? I can remember when my sisters and I each had a turn at taking care of our mother in her last years. It wasn't easy, we did what we could to ease her stress and illness, not wanting her to go to a facility. Alas, the inevitable happened anyway. It wasn't feasible for any of us to do what had to be done 24/7 with mother. I still feel guilty today because I couldn't do it longer, and I know my sisters feel the same way. My father did it right. He didn't give us a chance to do any caregiving for him. He had a massive stroke one day and two days later had a massive heart attack and passed ... it happened so fast. Mother had a stroke and lasted six years more. Finally she just couldn't hang on any longer, congestive heart failure took her.
Now I find myself caregiving my 102 year-old hubby of 14 years, going on 15. Not caregiving that long, married that long. Just recently got back together after the loss of his son last year, one month before I lost my son.
I do have help in the mornings with my husband, which is a godsend. The main medical care is done by professionals each morning, a 4-hour shift. My responsibilities consume the rest of the day and night ... 20 hours. Thank goodness we both sleep well, so that takes up at least 9 hours for him, 6 or 7 for me. And I use those extra early morning hours to get work done without distraction - accounting, other business, and housekeeping.
But what scares me the most is the nite-time ritual, which I've been doing of late ... when he is at his weakest and most vulnerable. I'm so afraid if he begins to fall I won't be able to stop him, and it's been pretty darn close. Plus he doesn't have full control over his bowels, and has a permanent catheter, which adds to special care. Not being able to walk increases his risk of falling when I move him from chair to chair to toilet to bed ... his motor ability isn't adequate enough, especially when he's tired ... and that's at night. So as much as I didn't want to hire nite-time caregivers 2 hours a nite, I've had to do it once again. The expense is stressful, but I don't feel I have any alternative. I've tried to do it myself and I've panicked when near falls have occurred, and that's even more stressful than lack of money to pay for help. I believe I'll have four nites covered by others, though, beginning this coming week, which leaves three nites for me to handle. That's better than doing seven.
So ... Bullet One above ... certainly applies ... stress of proper caregiving and stress of inadequate funds.
Bullet Two doesn't seem to enter into the equation for me. I'm not depressed, don't feel held back or restricted, I have my mornings to get out and about if I want, to run errands and shop, do meetings, etc. I have my cats, my writing, books to read, movies to watch, beautiful scenery. So no, that doesn't apply as of yet. Jim and I have much in common, work on things together.
Bullet Three applies!
Bullet Four ... well, I don't have any more health problems than I had before. So I would have to say no to this one, for me.
Bullet Five ... I hope not! But I've seen it happen. Please, God, not me! Way too much to do and accomplish still.
Bullet Six and Seven ... no sign of either yet.
I don't mean to put too much attention on my particular caregiving experience ... it's just that reading about it made me think about it all, am thinking about how it effects other caregivers, the ones who do it for a living. How difficult that must be! Right now we have two good ones, morning ones. And I'm very happy with them. Both are conscientious, kind, and caring, know what they're doing. I'm so grateful!
So here's to the terrific caregivers of the world! You are the best! May all your wishes come true!