Caregiver exhaustion is a real issue. It sometimes amazes me how exhausted I am after spending a lot of time with my in-laws. Especially when taking FIL for medical appointments, and even more when it’s an all-day procedure. He’s not a difficult person to be around, at all, but if I’m not calm and upbeat, he gets distressed and anxious. So I go out of my way to never let him see me impatient or grumpy — no matter my mood.
And the next day, I’m wiped out!
The last 6 months of my mother’s life, I was there 5 or 6 days out of 7. I always had to be upbeat and calm and reassuring to her, because a stroke left her extremely anxious. Feeling as I do today, after a day and a half of taking care of FIL at the hospital, I look back and wonder how in the world I managed it?! Where did I get the energy and stamina to deal with her anxiety every single day? It’s been almost 7 years since she died, has the time really made that much difference?
And then I think of the many people who do this all day, every day. In their homes, with no way to get away, get a break, escape. Mother lived in assisted living; I spent 3 to 6 hours with her as a rule. My in-laws live in assisted living. I generally spend a couple of hours with them, 2 or 3 times a week, unless there are extra appointments. So how do I have the right to gripe about my exhaustion when I’m not actually living with this?
How do all the caregivers out there do this, all the time, and stay sane, stay positive? How do they hold on to any balance in their lives? How is it that more focus is not given to the real problem of caregiver exhaustion?
People who do this are usually too close to it to see how remarkable they are. Their family members who do not help are too full of unrecognized guilt, or are just plain too selfish, to see how extraordinary their family caregivers are. Friends… well, they may sympathize, but they are never truly going to “get it” unless they have also gone through it. They don’t see that caregiver exhaustion can actually kill the caregiver.
My hat goes off to every live-in caregiver in the world. So many are under-appreciated, so many are unrecognized for the miraculous persons they are. I know well the saying that you never know what you’re capable of until you find yourself doing it, but I really do not think I could do what they do.