Tag Archives: caregiver responsibilities

Caregiving versus Life

I haven’t written a post for weeks because I’ve been engaged in a battle: Caregiving versus life. Most jobs make it difficult to be a home #caregiver for a person with #dementia. I’m a writer so, theoretically, I can work at home and still manage my mother’s care. Unfortunately she now needs more support because her condition has slipped. I got a bunch of new writing assignments from clients at the same time. I’ve had to choose between being a good #caregiver and taking care of my own life.

Caregiving versus Life

Caregiving versus life

Most caregivers fight this battle in one form or another. You can’t accept a dinner invitation because there’s no one to stay with your loved one. You get no time to spend with visitors because some medical crisis needs your attention. We  lose lots of opportunities to connect with people who might offer us support.

We don’t just miss social activities, we also forfeit huge amounts of money.  An article published by the Family Caregiver Alliance estimates that “caregiving reduces paid work hours for middle aged women by about 41 percent.” Caregivers earn less because we work fewer hours, but the losses don’t end there. The article states that if you add lost Social Security benefits to the drop in income, caregivers lose a total of $324,044. The financial estimates in that article are drawn from the MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers, which was published in 2011. Those numbers must be much higher by now.

all choices have a cost

Like many caregivers, I’ve had to make hard choices. This spring I chose to do writing that would boost my income. That means I had to sacrifice some of my personal projects (like the posts I write for this site). I also decided to be less involved in some of Mom’s care and let the hospice helpers do more. No matter how you manage things, you’ll pay a cost while caring for someone with dementia. If you prefer, you can hand all the money over to a nursing home and let them do the work. But it’s a very imperfect solution. Residential care is not always reliable and you can lose sanity over that, too.

I’ve always felt that there were benefits to keeping our family together by caring for Mom at home. You cannot reduce those benefits to an economic price tag. Nevertheless, during the month of June I’ve made a promise to myself to stay focused on my work and let the hospice staff take more responsibility. It’s hard to give up some of the small acts of care that I enjoy performing. It is necessary, however, if we’re going to have a stable economic future after Mom leaves.

Caregiver Identity

Caregiver identity is subject to change — especially if you spend years caring for a #dementia patient. Some days I barely recognize myself as the person I was at the start of my mom’s illness. This week I plan to resurrect my “old self”, if only for an hour or two. On Tuesday I’m leading a Girl Scout workshop about voting.

Caregiver Identity

As the Presidential election approaches, I recall how much I used to enjoy researching the candidates and talking about political issues. Maybe it’s me — or maybe it’s the candidates — but today I’m turned off by the constant media coverage. However, I still think it’s important for young people to vote. I want to help them learn how to register. I also want to teach them how to evaluate candidates and understand their platforms.

Back in the old days, I was immersed in civic issues. The declining quality of public schools disturbed me so I got involved in education reform. These days, my caregiver identity casts a shadow over other concerns. I still worry about schools, but now I have a stronger interest in health care and services for the elderly. I want to help the Girl Scout group understand how the Presidential election can influence all these critical matters.

Me Before You

My life was totally different before I became my mother’s #caregiver. I traveled across the country and around the world as I pursued my writing career. Freedom of choice was important to me. The limits of my choices were set by my bank account and my physical stamina. Physical stamina is still an important issue, but for completely different reasons. Most of my daily energy is spent supporting my mom. I lift her, hold her, and help her all day long — and during the wee hours.

Sometimes I miss my old life, but I recognize that being a #caregiver has made me a more compassionate, loving person. When your world is focused on someone else’s well-being, you can’t avoid being changed by the experience.

Every now and then I long to feel some fragment of “old me”: racing to catch a plane or planning an international trip. This week I’ll give myself the treat of one brief hour as “old me” during the #Girl Scout workshop. Can you still remember what it was like to be the “old you”? Is there one thing you could do this week to let your former self out of the box?