Reach out for help
Dear Readers: One of the most difficult relationships that readers write to me about – beyond couples’ crises, disaffected children or in-law wars – is that of being the spouse/lover/or adult child who becomes a loved one’s caregiver.
Here’s how one caregiver described her own situation: Reader’s Commentary
“I’ve been looking after my dad full-time for two years. I can do it because I’m not currently working. He can reach the phone and contact me so I can go out for a few hours.
“Through government help, a personal support worker (PSW) stays with my dad for 16 hours each month so I can take that one break.
“But there are still so many chores to do that never end and from which I never get a break.
“Nobody (among family, friends or neighbours) has offered to stay with my dad. I haven’t asked them because they haven’t offered.
“When my dad was in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) last year, I was worn down from being there 12 hours a day.
“People in hospital are looked after, but not for the daily smaller (but still important) matters:
“His water would be put on a table too far from him to reach it.
“Staff would often arrive late with his Parkinson’s pills though the medication needs to be taken on time.
“They’d put a plate of food in front of him, but no one would encourage him to eat.
“If I hadn’t been there, encouraging and helping him to eat, he’d have hardly had anything.
“Only then did I ask some longtime friends to help me and stay with my dad for just a few hours in the hospital, as I was desperate for some help. I was so tired and stressed out that I needed a break.
“Some got back to me two weeks later. Two came for two or three hours each. I have no siblings or relatives here. My parents’ good friends are too old to help, and others have passed.
“I do a lot of cooking for my dad’s health. I do many chores for him, with a lot of pressure on me to do them by a certain time.
“There’s a lot of smelly laundry, smelly garbage, many dishes to wash. I often have to help him eat. He isn’t very sociable, doesn’t talk much.
“Caregiving isn’t fun. But when I feel resentful and don’t talk much to my dad, I feel badly about it.
“But my dad doesn’t try to engage with me. The whole situation isn’t easy or pleasant.
“Caregivers are invisible. Whenever people talk to me, their first question is, “How is your dad?” I understand their concern, but it makes me feel unimportant.
“I don’t talk to anyone every day, only if I go shopping. I feel isolated. I like to attend Meetup groups but they’re at times when I need to give my dad his meals.”
Ellie: For all current and potential caregivers: Research your community for every possible service to help you with caregiving, including how to get access to respite care, find caregiver support groups (some online, others through phone support or in person).
In Canada, see www.agingparentscanada.ca for government assistance programs and research your province’s programs for accessing respite care for caregivers.