As part of the sandwich generation, I care for a 13 year old daughter and my elderly mother and aunt. To be brutally honest, I feel the tug of responsibility and resentment on an almost daily basis. And I’m not alone.
The national survey, released today, shows that 63 percent of caregivers spend, on average, nine or more hours a week providing care to an adult over the age of 50 and nearly one in three (31 percent) describe the task as extremely or very difficult. Most notably, nearly one in three (30 percent) caregivers also has experienced some feelings of isolation.
(According to AARP and the Ad Council survey in August of 2012)
My Story of Caregiving
I love my family. I was brought up to take responsibility when someone needs help. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 81 she lived in my home while recovering from surgery and during treatment. My aunt was already in a care facility, so I took on the role of making sure she was healthy, doing laundry, etc.
Since my mother’s diagnosis, she changed mentally. She was extremely forgetful and anxious. Thankfully, she gained back much of her mental status in a few months. But things were never the same.
I became my aunt’s financial guardian during this time, which is not my cup of tea. My mother returned home, but needed more assistance with every day needs. The stress was adding up and I could feel myself becoming resentful of the many roles I had to play.
My Home Life and Poor Me
My daughter has several health problems and anxiety. She has had a lot of difficulty with school and many doctors’ appointments. Although my husband helps as much as he can, he works full time at a very stressful job. And I have multiple chronic illnesses.
The combination of being a caregiver for my mother, my aunt and my daughter began to weigh heavily on me. I’ll never forget the day my daughter was diagnosed with a severe cardiac illness. I called my mom to let her know. She yelled at me about my attempt to stop her from taking my aunt home from the hospital instead of returning to the care facility. Was this my mother?
It Hit the Fan
My mom’s personality changed dramatically over the last two years. She was angry and paranoid. She’d call me one day and curse me out. The next day, she’d talk to me as if nothing had happened. I spoke to her doctors. I spoke to her counselor, but it continued.
My mother was diagnosed a few months ago with a benign brain tumor which can cause personality changes as well as headaches and falls. I hate to say it, but in a way I was relieved. Maybe when the tumor was removed, I’d have my old mom back. During her recovery and about a month after, it seemed to be so. All too soon, the love affair was over. The berating calls began again.
I haven’t been taking care of myself because of caregiver burnout. I don’t keep my doctors’ appointments. My appearance is last on the list. I hardly ever go out socially. I don’t sleep or eat well and have mood swings.
Instead of being continuously stressed out and feeling resentful about my caregiver role, I’ve learned how to cope:
- I don’t answer calls from my mother. Instead they go to voicemail.
- I reach out to family and medical professionals for help.
- I take care of myself first so that I can take care of my family.
- I speak to a counselor about my feelings.
- I have given most of the responsibility of being the financial guardian for my aunt to an attorney.
- My family and I get away more, even if it’s a short trip.
Edit: I feel the need to say that I love my mother dearly. If she needs me for something serious, I’ll be there in a heartbeat. It has just become physically and mentally overwhelming now. And I pray that a medical professional would step in to help so I do more for her.
For more information on being a caregiver, visit the Caregiver Resource Center from AARP.
Are you a caregiver? Do you feel resentful at times?
I am part of AARP’s kitchen cabinet on caregiving. This is a series of posts on the topic of caregiving. This post and my social media involvement is compensated, but all opinions are my own.