Saturday, March 23, 2013

Praising Primary Caregivers

Hate your job?  Hate knowing that when you get out of bed, you've got to go to work?  If you ever become a primary caregiver you will look back and laugh.  Caregiving goes on 24/7 unless you set out with a fully-formed plan. 

Consider some statistics -- AARP's 2009 report said that 48.9 million Americans care for an adult family member or friend.  These caregivers are primarily women whose average age is 48. 

Janice Kiecolt-Glaser's research says that first, Interleukin aka IL-6 is a protein that indicates stress in the body and two, caregivers stress levels are four times higher than in non-caregivers.  And this stress lingers for as long as three years after giving care has ended. 

Depression would seem to be a big part of the lives of caregivers.  It is sad to see a loved one in the throes of Alzheimers or near death with cancer.  We tend to remember them as they were and find it hard to see them as they are now.  To see a loved one who once smiled with anticipation as you approached to one who now asks, "Who are you?" is disheartening to say the least. 

Still, being a caregiver is one of the most loving (and stressful) things you can do for another.  The only way you are going to be able to do it though is to be mentally prepared and to have A Plan long before you may need to utilize it. 

Think about your family members and dear friends.  Consider their strengths and weaknesses, how far away they would have to travel to help you out and what would be, based on the relationship to the patient, the most helpful thing they can do.  Write it down just as if you were going to start tomorrow.   Put a star by the names of those people you consider most likely TO help out. 

Often, we don't recognise that our daily duties require so much time because we don't think about them; we just do them.  How long does it take to sweep a floor?  Clean a bathroom?  Load/unload the dishwasher?   

The one thing that you will miss the most is "alone time."  That's why your plan is going to be so necessary to give you just that. 

And, parents,  it would be extremely helpful if you would not insist on dying at home.  If you have visions of yourself, softly encased in a fluffy bed, looking around, muttering, "Goodbye blue curtains, goodbye dear rose pink walls..." I suggest you get a grip.  Dying, it would seem, is a combination of both morphine and your body shutting down.  Odds are good you won't be awake for either one. 

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