2030 seems like the distant future, but it is only 12 years from the writing of this article—just as close in time as 2006.
Has family caregiving caused some conflicts among you and your siblings? It can feel unfair when you are pulling more weight than others.
Camilla and Susan were best friends for more than 40 years, ever since their kids were in school together. Both widowed in the last decade, they grew even closer to each other. Camilla even moved into Susan’s apartment building in the Mission Terrace area of San Francisco so they could spend every day together.
When you moved out of the family home and set off on your own, your mother likely went through a mix of worry and excitement for you. Your challenges were new, and you were bound to make some mistakes on your way to figuring out adulthood. Now that she’s living alone and facing the challenges of later life, you’re likely going through your own worries, especially if you’re unable to act as a regular caregiver to support her independence.
Sometimes simple statements, filled with numbers and statistics and the flat, census-based declarations, contain within them an enormous reservoir of pain and suffering and loneliness. That’s probably why we keep them so dry and clinical: to avoid looking at the hurt. Here are a few:
When you’re a caregiver it is easy to overwork yourself. Caregiver stress, fatigue, and overall burnout can be easy to dismiss as less important than undivided attention for your aging or disabled loved one. In other words, caregiving has the potential to be all-consuming. But it shouldn’t be so at the expense of your own well-being and vibrancy. There are other ways to be—progressive ways to manage your responsibilities to yourself as well as to the person in your care.
Glen describes his stress as “a feeling that someone is gripping the back of my neck tightly. And I’m so tense that I can’t even turn around to see who it is—if I wanted to.” He feels the stress of healthcare expenses, family drama, and even death as he’s dealing with more unfamiliar health challenges than ever before. Maureen, on the other hand, says that when she’s stressed, “I just power through it, focusing only on what needs to get done. But then I crash, and sometimes it takes me days to recover in bed.” She feels the weight of continuing to host a book club in her home each week even after she took a bad fall and has had to use a walker, as well as her husband’s worsening dementia.
When an older adult has a caregiver come to their home to assist them with everyday tasks, the possibilities for staying and aging at home are greatly extended. With the help of client service managers, homes can be updated for safety and accessibility, medical needs and appointments can be consolidated to minimize and simplify care, nutritious meals can be prepared or delivered, and an in-home caregiver can be present for as many hours as needed to offer an older adult companionship and assistance. These services can ensure each client—and each family—has what they need for successful aging in place because care plans are designed specifically for each individual’s unique situation.
Ray loved his home. He’d lived there with his wife Doreen for over 50 years. He knew every creaky spot on the hardwood floor, every crack in the walls, and every mark on the bathroom door where Doreen had recorded the heights of his growing children.
Christie was overwhelmed. Ever since her aging mother’s stroke six months ago, she had been her primary caregiver. Every day before work Christie would drive to her mother’s house to help her get out of bed and make her breakfast. On her lunch hour, Christie would dart across town to bring her mother lunch, eat with her, and help her around the house. And of course, on her way home each day Christie always stopped by to help her mother with dinner and get her ready for bed.