I recently read an article where a woman described her frustration on how no one really talks about how messy, hard, and scary it can be to be a caregiver. There are certainly times where the line between caregiver and spouse, or caregiver and child, or caregiver and friend, overlap and perhaps they should not overlap as often as they do. There are times when a caregiver may long to be just the spouse, the adult child, or the friend, and not have to also be the meal preparer, cleaner, or bed sheet changer.
How do we know when these lines have blurred too much and the mental health of the caregiver is at risk? It can be tough to say. Each person is different and each family is different and each bank account is different, so how do we figure this out?
Typically, when a friend or family member of a caregiver begins to see the edges fraying, the caregiving has become too much. At this point, the outside observer may need to step in and find a way to help that caregiver. This may be as simple as finding alternative resources so the caregiver can just sit with their loved one and hold their hand, to be really present with their loved one.
Finding volunteers to help with caregiving responsibilities, even taking just a small portion of the caregiving duties off of the caregiver, can help them regain some familiarity of being the spouse, child, or friend of their loved one. This allows the caregiver and their loved one to sit and watch TV together, go on a walk together, or simply laugh together. This short interlude may allow the caregiver and their loved one to return to the typical relationship that defined them prior to the disease.
If you know someone in the middle of the caregiver mess, here are some resources that could help:
- Consult with your local Alzheimer’s Association regarding available caregiver support groups.
- Hire outside help to relieve some caregiving duties and provide respite assistance.
- Consult with a Geriatric Care Manager like AgeWise Advocacy & Consulting to receive guidance and consultation regarding home care versus facility care and planning for the future. Geriatric Care Managers can also help navigate the many types of support groups and respite care resources available.
Most of the time the caregiver won’t recognize they need help, so I encourage you to find time in your week to reach out to a caregiver and provide them a moment of tenderness, however that may be defined for them.