Am I a Caregiver or a Prisoner?

29 08 2008

Caregivers, do you feel like you’re under house arrest? Should you buy yourself an attract anklet to cover up that monitering device?

I say this in good jest, but it can feel this way.

Family caregiving can feel pretty claustrophobic. Resentments can mushroom.

It’s not all in your head either–leaving a loved one home alone who has dementia/Alzheimer’s might not be an option (if their disease has progressed to the point to where they could wander or hurt themselves). 

Hiring a CNA or other care provider can be difficult–finding someone who your loved one is comfortable with is a challenge. There are other issues of trusting your loved one’s care and your home to person you don’t know.

Many times, it just doesn’t seem worth the hassle, so you stay at home. And stay. And stay.

You watch too much TV, eat too much ice cream, become an “over” caregiver, or fall into depression.

But it doesn’t have to that way. it takes effort–and that initial effort is like breaking out of the earth’s atmosphere. It takes a lot of jet fuel.

Why bother? (You ask facetiously).

Because your life MUST go on. Because you need to get out, be involved in your community, make and keep friendships, make plans for your life and future, cultivate hope.

You need a plan.

Ask yourself, what do you miss most?

Is it simple things like going to the library? A walk in the park? Lunch with friends? Church or temple?

Pick one thing and figure out a way to make it happen.

Who do you trust to stay with your loved one a few hours?

Is there a neighbor or relative–or former care provider who could give you a short break?

Or–contact a reputable agency in your area. Consider a place such as Comfort Keepers who are licensed and bonded. Explain your loved one’s medical condition and personality.

They might have just the right person. It can surprise you. My most dearest caregiver wasn’t someone I’d think my mother would take to–but her genuine warmth, sense of humor and professionalism won us all over–big time!

Plan that first outing.

Start with one a month. No excuses.

This isn’t grocery shopping or picking up meds at the pharmacy.

This time is for you.

And when you walk out the door–leave it all behind. Trust that you’ve made a good choice and that your loved one will be fine. Don’t be over critical. Make sure the important things like meds are taken care of–but don’t get all fussy if they eat the last of your ice cream. What’s important is that your loved one was safe!

Even “happy” is optional. Realize you might not be able to make them happy–especially if they don’t chose to be. It’s time to think a little about your own happiness. That’s okay, it’s even more than okay.

Don’t be surprised if your loved one likes this new person!

This can be more unsettling than you think. They may perk up and be on their best behavoir–or worst (like a little kid showing off!)

And don’t be surprised if you feel a twinge of jealousy!

Your loved one needs a break from you, too. 

You’re not always a picnic, ya know. They need a different face, voice, and mannerism. It can be refreshing. Don’t be surprised if you feel a twinge of jealousy. Take it as a complement though–you picked a good person.

For all the hours and days (and weeks) when you can’t leave the house:

Change your stinkin’ thinkin’!

What if you considered being home a gift? Look around. Most of us have unread books, unfinished art projects, unpainted rooms, weeds to pick, recipes to try–is it so bad to be at home? Not if adjust your attitude.

In our new “green” world, staying home, gardening, biking, the “domestic arts” is quite the “in” thing to do.

Consider yourself “going green.” Environmentalists will love you! You’re not emitting gas fumes by driving and you’re the perfect candidate for recycling.

If you have to be there, then really be there.

Rechoose caregiving–not because you have to, but because you believe in it–it’s the best role for you–right now.

Be in the moment. Make your home a sacred, relaxing, inviting place to be. Start with one corner and make that corner special–a table, a photo, a flower. Spread out from there. A can of paint doesn’t cost that much–rearranging the furniture doesn’t cost anything at all.

Got a computer? (I assume you do if you’re reading this)

The world is at your fingertips. Visit a forum, look up your ancestory, download itunes and get some new music–write pen pal from around the world. The possibilities are endless.

Don’t go around feeling like a junkyard dog held at home by the choke chain of caregiving

Embrace this time in your life with gusto.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon and in most bookstores

Family Advisor at


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29 08 2008

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