Grilled lamb chops on lavash with pomegranate seeds and rosemary.

Both my husband and I have British heritage, and we love lamb chops. Although the price of lamb has increased markedly, we were willing to pay it. So I went to the butcher shop and bought four thick chops. When I returned home, I put them in the freezer for another day.

Two weeks later, when I went to get the chops, they were gone. I looked on the top shelf, where I store fish, but didn’t see the chops. I looked on the second shelf, where I store meat, but didn’t see the chops. I looked on the third shelf, where I store vegetables, and the bottom shelf, where I store bread products. No lamb chops.

I began to doubt my memory. Did the clerk bag the chops with the rest of my order? Had I thrown them out accidentally? Was I going crazy? This is my 20th year as a family caregiver and, over the years, I learned family caregivers can forget things and lose things. You may have misplaced the car keys, for example, and wondered why this happened. Well, I think there are four key reasons.

We have so much to do. My task list keeps getting longer. In just over a month, my disabled husband was hospitalized three times, once for pneumonia, once for asthma, and once for acute asthma. Doctors prescribed medications and nebulizer treatments for him. I added these responsibilities to my task list. My list was already long, and it’s even longer now.

We’re constantly prioritizing. A lot is going in our minds, and we need to determine which tasks need to be done first. This juggling process is ongoing. You may have been so concerned about a loved one you called 911, a scary experience. While caregivers are prioritizing, we’re providing care, fixing meals, cleaning house, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, and planning ahead.

We’re short of sleep. Psychiatrist Jarrett Richardson, MD, in a Mayo Clinic website article, “Underlying Causes of Sleepless Nights are Often Treatable,” says caring for a family member can cause a reduction in sleep. Have you ever been so tired you couldn’t drift off into dreamland? Before I go to bed, I slow down, calm my mind, and set worries aside. Personal health problems—a terrible cold, aching back, or arthritic hips—can impede sleep as well.

We live with stress. Caregiving is a stressful role. A chronically ill loved one may get worse. A loved one may have become so ill you called 911, a scary, expensive experience. While insurance plans cover some bills, we have co-payments, and pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars out of pocket. To reduce stress, Gail Sheehy, author of Passages in Caregiving, asks caregivers to breathe calmly for at least 10 minutes.

Losing things and forgetting things are signs of caregiver overload. We can help ourselves by slowing down, consolidating tasks, getting reliable help, and improving self-care. I’ve taken these steps, but couldn’t live with the mystery of the missing lamb chops. Finally, I emptied the freezer item-by-item, and shelf-by-shelf. I found the lamb chops, and we’re having them for dinner tonight.

Written by Harriet Hodgson
Rochester resident Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for writing for 38 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 36 books. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support. She is also a contributing writer for The Caregiver Space website, Open to Hope Foundation website, and The Grief Toolbox website. Harriet has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. A popular speaker, Harriet has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, caregiving, and bereavement conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. All of Harriet’s work comes from her life. She is now in her 19th year of caregiving and cares for her disabled husband, John. For more information about this busy author, grandmother, wife, and caregiver please visit www.harriethodgson.com

Related Articles

A simple loss

A simple loss

It doesn't rhyme with purpose But that's what it is Or inspiration But that, too You've lost it. In the middle of everything else, that one thing,...

Popular categories

Finances
Burnout
After Caregiving
Housing
Relationships
Finding Meaning
Planning
Dying
Finding Support
Work
Grief

Don't see what you're looking for? Search the library

Share your thoughts

31 Comments

  1. What was the question?

    Reply
  2. High stress and lack of sleep over time makes you forgetful, it also kills brain cells and the only way to get some of that back if you went through the stress and lack of sleep for years is Exercise. All I have to do is walk into a different room and I will forget what I went there for.

    Reply
  3. No, just have so much to remember, have to write a few things down.

    Reply
  4. Oh yes. Every day I wonder what I am supposed to be doing

    Reply
  5. No! Oh my, reminder!!! Remember to remember this! Well okay…yes!

    Reply
  6. Forgetful, irritable, impatient, exhausted, overwhelmed…the list keeps growing.

    Reply
  7. YES AND IT WILL KILL YOU TOO BUT I DON’T REGRET A THING I DID FOR MY HUSBAND OFF AND ON FOR 14 YEAR.

    Reply
  8. Yes

    Excessive stress, like from being a caregiver, can cause your hippocampus to shrink and hence cause memory problems according to a psychology class I took in university.

    Plus chronic sleep deprivation due to being a caregiver doesn’t help either

    Reply
  9. Yes, being overwhelmed with the phone calls and Dr appointments then add mine in too

    Reply
  10. That’s not really funny regarding caregivers, but a sad reality at times. There are so many things to keep track of, something always gets overlooked or forgotten.

    Reply
  11. Yes. There is so much to remember and do . But it is the emotional toll that it places on me that gets me distracted and I become forgetful. Stress makes one forgetful. We need to have compassion for our selves as caregivers. Or we will end up ill.

    Reply
  12. Yes! It exacerbates diagnosed ADHD, too!

    Reply
  13. Yes. On weeks where I barely have time to sit down, I become very forgetful. I’ve been known to put the milk in the cupboard and garbage in the refrigerator.

    Reply
    • WHAT ABOUT PUTING THE ICE CREAM IN MICROWAVE AND THE BREAD IN THE REFRIDGATOR TO COOK.NOW THAT IS GETTING BAD. BUT IT HAPPENDS IT DID TO ME.

      Reply
  14. Chronic sleep deprivation will make you forgetful.

    Reply
  15. Very tired..and stressed out..:(

    Reply
  16. My first moment when I thought I was losing it was when I needed someone to repeat a simple question five times before I understood it. I finally realized I spent so much time “spinning the noun wheel” to cope with my grandmother’s noun aphasia that I had started doing it randomly with strangers.

    “Do you want a wag?”
    “Do you want a wig?”
    “Do you want a fig?”
    “Do you want a cig?”
    “Do you want a tag?”
    “Do you want a….?”

    I kept trying to fill in the right noun to get the sentence to make sense, totally missing the fact that “Do you want a bag?” was already a complete, totally legitimate, makes perfect sense question at the store I was at.

    Reply
  17. Great Article .. Harriet

    We love lamb chops too.. haven’t lost any yet ..

    I’ve called 911 up to six times a year for my hubby.. UTI ‘s where he couldn’t stand or walk , CHF , and other things ..
    Pneumonia ,

    I didn’t cry either after all the things we have been through in the past 10 years ..

    It’s definitely a day by day , hour by hour , minute by minute journey .

    God Bless you and all care givers

    Reply
  18. Yep. Forgetful and unfocused, because one task leads to another and another and another…

    Reply
  19. Yes…so busy being Mom’s brain, that I forget I have one myself…especially at work and they don’t understand….at all….

    Reply
  20. Frazzled, forgetful and broke….especially when caregiving becomes your unpaid position….

    Reply

Share your thoughts and experiences

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join our communities

Whenever you want to talk, there’s always someone up in one of our Facebook communities.

These private Facebook groups are a space for support and encouragement — or getting it off your chest.

Join our newsletter

Thoughts on care work from Cori, our director, that hit your inbox each Monday morning (more-or-less).

There are no grand solutions, but there are countless little ways to make our lives better.

Share your insights

Caregivers have wisdom and experience to share. Researchers, product developers, and members of the media are eager to understand the nature of care work and make a difference.

We have a group specifically to connect you so we can bring about change.