Tuesday April 5, 2022
Do you like rollercoasters? I do! It’s the thrill. The ups, downs, and unexpected drops can be so fun… but also scary. As I have gotten older, my stomach likes rollercoasters less and less.
What about the rollercoaster of caregiving? Do you like that? The emotional highs and lows, the unexpected changes, and new things to deal with daily. Nope! I have never met a caregiver who loves the rollercoaster.
It is hard! Whether you are caring for a parent, spouse, other family member, or friend, it is tough. It’s hard physically and emotionally. Some days you feel like you’ve got this and know what you are doing, and other days you may be barely scraping by and thinking: “I just can’t do this anymore.”
What I want you to know is that the rollercoaster of caregiving is normal. You will have good days and bad days. You will have days you want to hide in the closet and cry and days when everything is perfect.
What are some of the emotions of this caregiving rollercoaster?
Oh, the guilt! Guilt can eat you up. Handling a situation wrong, making a decision you regret for your loved one’s care, feeling frustrated with your loved one. The reasons caregivers experience guilt seem to be endless.
It is hard seeing your loved one decline. It is sad, and caregiver depression is common.
You may be angry because your loved one doesn’t understand what you are asking of them. Or you may be angry because they aren’t cooperating, and you are in a hurry.
When caring for someone with dementia, you are grieving over and over for every change. When Mom can’t make her famous pot roast. When your husband can’t figure out how to work the lawnmower.
You may feel embarrassed when your loved one does something “socially strange” in public, such as talking to strangers, getting too close to someone’s child you don’t know, or eating with their fingers at a restaurant.
You will experience moments of worry and panic thinking about all the things that could go wrong. The list of bad things that could happen may seem endless.
There can and will be moments of joy for you to hold onto. When you catch a glimpse of who your loved one used to be. When your husband, who has seemingly forgotten your name, calls you by name. When your mom, who has seemingly forgotten that you are her daughter, tells you sincerely that you are the best thing that has ever happened to her.
We are so grateful for the hidden heroes of this world. A friend brings by a casserole or just calls to check in on you. A neighbor stops by to sit on the porch with your dad for a cup of coffee, and you can go inside and get a few things done.
Funny things happen with memory impairment. It’s okay to laugh and enjoy!
There is so much love to celebrate. The love that you give as you provide care. And the love that your loved one shows you in those unexpected moments.
So… what is the point of all of this?
I wish this is where I could tell you how to avoid the rollercoaster lows with 3 easy steps. I wish it were that easy, but it just isn’t. Dementia is hard. Caregiving is so hard. There is no avoiding the rollercoaster.
The best that you can do is prepare yourself. Buckle up. This is going to be a bumpy ride with unexpected twists, turns, and dips. Even if the rollercoaster is unavoidable, there are things you can do to make the rollercoaster a little less scary and a lot less lonely.
- Join a support group.
Sometimes you just need to commiserate with others who are in the same boat. No judgment, just understanding. Support groups can help you realize that you aren’t alone in this and that other people are dealing with the same type of things. Does it take away the actual burden? No, but support groups can give you some perspective and help you realize that you are not alone.
- Find a therapist.
This rollercoaster of emotions is hard to process at times. A therapist or counselor is someone who will listen and help you process your thoughts in a healthy way. Having a therapist is not a sign of weakness! Your mental health is important.
- Find an outlet.
Maybe you like to hit the gym or go for walks. Make that happen! If you like to write, get a journal, and start writing. No one has to read it. It doesn’t have to make sense. Just write. If you like to craft, set up a corner in your house and get to creating. If you like to play golf, set up a round with a friend. Having an outlet is so important for your own mental health.
- Get help.
Let friends or family help with caregiving if they are willing and able. You CAN NOT do this alone. Maybe you need to hire a caregiver, so you can have some time to get out of the house alone. Maybe you need to send your loved one to an adult day care (I know where to find one!), or maybe you just need to increase their days with the caregiver or at the adult day program, so you can have more of a break.
- Focus on the good.
If you are like me, I tend to focus on the things I messed up. Dwelling on failure doesn’t do us any good. Focus on your success in caregiving. What are the good and great moments?
The days ahead will certainly not be easy, but you are not alone. We can’t take away the rollercoaster, but we can be your safety check and your support.
Need to talk through something? Give us a call.
Having a rough day? Give us a call.
Need some suggestions for a difficult situation? Give us a call.
Need some resources? Let us help you.
Call us at 901-854-1200.