Can you help carry the burden?

Anonymous left this comment in The typical caregiver...

Interesting articles, I can relate to both in some ways. I am 38 have been caring for my 79 year old mother for the past 5 years and it's like my world has fallen apart. She requires a LOT of care and is somewhat un-thankful of all that I do for her. I'm not asking for an award or anything like that, but it would be nice for her to be pleasant and not order my husband and I around constantly.

Anon, I very much admire your willingness to care for your mom. I know that it must be very difficult. As I look at the difference in your ages, I am reminded that this is the exact difference in the age of my daughter and me, and I wondered if she will need to care for me some day. If she does, I pray that I will be pleasant and not demanding.

As a registered nurse, I encountered many patients with difficult and demanding personalities, and almost without exception, the nursing staff would avoid them if at all possible. What I have observed about older people is that they are often demanding because they are afraid or lonely. Avoiding them only increases that fear and loneliness. What we learned was that if we appeared more interested in them, checked in on them more often, or went out of our way to offer special care and attention, they would more often than not, become much more pleasant to work with, as well as less demanding.

Since I've been taking care of her-I had to cut my hours at work to part time, have to get by on anywhere from 0 to 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night, have had 2 miscarriages, been on a constant struggle at work(I've made mistakes and got written up), am no longer able to keep in contact with my friends, do not go out socially, worry about my husband leaving because we don't have much quality time together, my blood pressure and cholesterol levels have skyrocketed (I had to give up going to the gym), have gained weight, I also paint and am on the verge of giving that up completely because the only painting I get to do is at the expense of sleep.

Bless your heart - you really could use some help! This is one of those situations that I strongly believe the Church needs to embrace. Do you attend a church? If so, I would encourage you to make an appointment with your pastor and make him aware of your situation and needs. Many churches have a parish nurse on staff that help you connect with the resources - both inside and outside the church - that you need.

Stephen Ministry caregiver might also be very helpful if your mother is receptive. If your church does not have a Stephen Ministry, find out who in your community does. A Stephen Minister is a lay person who can visit with your mom on a regular basis and provide friendship and a listening ear. One of my dearest friends, who works full time outside the home, has an elderly mother living with her. Now that her mother has a Stephen Minister visiting her once a week, her mother has been much less lonely and demanding on my friend.

Are there any adult daycare centers in your area that your mother could attend a day or two a week? At first, my father resisted going, but he quickly adjusted and looked forward to the days he was able to go.

Also, I have no siblings, no relatives who live close by, all I have for help is my husband, a visiting nurse who comes in once a week and a home health aide who comes twice a week who is NO help at all. What is a home health aide suppose to do? The one we have is slick, she figured out that if she comes after I've left for work the commode is already emptied and cleaned, her colostomy stuff is already cleaned (my mom has a bag and she empties the continents into a urinal several times a day)so all the home health aide does is give her a sponge bath and makes the bed. Sometimes she washes my mom's hair, we have a hose in the kitchen sink for that. The home health aide just takes the dirty dishes out of the sink, does her hair then puts the dirty dishes back in. I do not have time for dishes before I leave for work, I have the commode, the colostomy, get her breakfast, her meds, and so on.

Once I moved my mother into our home, I only had the help of my husband and children, as well. It is very difficult, I know. I also understand the strain on a marriage and though our marriage survived that season, I can look back and see that we should have taken better care of our relationship with each other, so I urge you to do just that. I am assuming that your husband is as willing to have your mother in your home as my husband was to have my mother here, but the situation places a huge burden on a marriage relationship.

My mother had very few monetary assets, but we made the decision early on that we would not be concerned with trying to save any of them. We used as much of mother's money as we felt necessary to provide the best care for her we could, and sometimes that meant taking care of us. I was fortunate to find an agency that could provide half-day care for mother so that I could leave the house from time to time. Even though it was expensive, it was worth it.

I had a friend who was willing to stay with mother so that I could go out of town, and my nephew and his wife also stayed with mom one weekend. I should have asked for more help from my friends at church, but I didn't want to impose. I know now that it would not have been an imposition. I was probably just too proud to ask for the help I really needed.

It sounds to me like you need to discuss the problems you are having with the caregivers that are coming into your home with the agency that is providing them. When my mother was first moved into our home, Medicare provided an aide 2-3 days a week, but fortunately, I was at home while they were here. All they did was give mother a bath and help me wash her hair once a week, but mother's care required two people.

I cannot imagine how stressful my life would have been if I had to work outside the home and care for my mother, too, but I had stopped working outside the home years before I became a caregiver to my mother. I believe that one of the reasons we are faced with this crisis in health care and the elderly is because so many woman with families have chosen careers outside the home and are now unavailable to care to for the elderly as in past generations.

That doesn't help anon, though, and I pray that I do not burden her with guilt for working outside the home. She desperately needs help where she is right now.

We, the church, must open our eyes to the needs of those around us. The bottom line in the headmistress'
Love Thy Neighbor at The Common Room was:
"Christians ought to be a warm and vibrant part of that community."
She was comparing the difference between personal charity and government assistant to the poor and needy, but the same principal applies to those like anon who need help in caring for their elderly parents at home.

Can you imagine the impact - the evangelistic outreach - if every Christian family would provide even one hour a week, or half a day or day a month, of respite care or provide meals or housekeeping to a caregiving family in their neighborhood, community, or church?

There are woman just like anon all around us. We need spiritual eyes to see them, and the love of Christ to move us to action.
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

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The typical caregiver....

....according to a report by Faiza Elmasry at Voice of a women who is 46 years old, with a job outside the home, and spends 20 hours a week caring for a mother who leaves nearby.

In her report, Elmasy quotes author Mary Lou Quinlan, who discourages women from leaving their jobs to care for family.

I totally disagree.

Jennifer is a 37 year old divorced woman who no longer works outside the home so that she can care for her 97 year old grandmother. Read about Jennifer and her grandmother Donna here. They sound like quite a pair!