I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about caregiving this week mainly because my mom got one of those phone calls about my grandmother. You know the one where suddenly the usual struggle to care for someone long distance becomes a struggle to get to that person as they take a turn for the worse.
My grandmother, thank goodness, is out of the hospital and returned to her everyday life and so for the moment my mom’s life has also returned to that of just being caregiver rather than grieving daughter. And that’s a good thing but I worry about the inevitable day when my mom will be grieving because my grandmother won’t be able to pull off another miracle rebound. You’d think that she might be relieved that the daily phone calls and the multiple trips back to a town so small it’s only on the map because it’s bigger than anything nearby would be a relief. But I know she won’t see it that way and watching her makes me aware that my own caregiving stint will someday approach as well.
I’m taking lessons, practical lessons on how to live two lives, how to manage two households, how to find humor in the day-to-day-to-day of caring for someone who cannot acknowledge your efforts because frankly she’s too caught up in her own efforts at survival. I want some magical key that will help me to help my mom but as this story suggests, she probably doesn’t need one. In fact, you can spend quite a bit of time on the web looking for some “Yes, it’s all done with” stories and instead you’ll find stories like this one. Oh, I’m sure there are people who are gloriously relieved. After all there are plenty of stories that talk about the shear amount of hard labor involved but mostly what I find most astonishing about the human condition is that we can still find value in the person we care for even when providing that care can wear us out emotionally, physically and financially. When everything else seems wrong with the world, that’s what gives me hope.
Caregiving may appear to be a job to do alone but it’s really not. Caregiver burnout is a real problem. You’ll hear elder law attorney Rajiv Nagaich speak frequently about not making legal plans that leave everything in the caregiver’s name because caregivers sometimes die before the person they provide care for does. AARP has some wonderful resources on their site and whatever the reason is that you are providing care for someone whether it be Alzheimer’s or diabetes or cancer or some other reason, you can find a website that provides tips and resources for the caregiver.