I am my husband’s primary caregiver. Although a paid caregiver comes each morning to get him up, I’m the person on the job day and night. A while ago my husband was hospitalized for pneumonia and he spent three and a half days in the hospital. Shortly after he came home he had two more bouts of pneumonia, and his recovery has been slow.
I’ve been slow too. My husband needs more help than he used to, and often asks for help when I’m cooking a meal, writing at the computer, or doing laundry. “I’ll be there in a minute,” I call. But it’s never a minute and my husband knows this. Consequently, I often feel guilty for not providing instant service.
Guilt is the last thing I need in my overly-busy life. Gail Sheehy, in her book, Passages in Caregiving, asks caregivers not to succumb to guilt. “Guilt-driven caregivers and those culturally scripted to dedicate their lives to sick parents inevitably sacrifice too much,” she observes. At a time when we need to be lifted up, guilt creeps into our minds and drags us down. Your caregiving situation may be similar to mine. How can we make things easier?
We can tell what we are doing and how much longer it will take. You may be making pudding, for example, and have to keep stirring, pour the pudding into a bowl, and put it in the refrigerator. An example from my life, “I just stepped out of the shower and am putting on my clothes. I’ll be there in five minutes.”
Ask for specifics
Can your loved one wait a few minutes? Respond immediately if your loved one has fallen, is in pain, or not making sense. I posted a list of emergency phone numbers next to my high-volume phone. (I have a hearing loss.) In addition, I know how long it takes to get from our place to the hospital.
Be honest with feelings
Married for nearly 59 years, my husband and I have an honest relationship. I’ve told him several times that I feel guilty when I can’t drop everything to help him. His reply: “I’m not trying to pressure you.” Still, I feel pressured when the person I adore needs my help and has to wait for it. Although he says he understands, our situation hasn’t changed all that much, and my guilt feelings don’t go away.
Swedish author Henrik Edberg, in his article, “Self-Kindness: 7 Habits that will Help You to Live a Happier Life,” posted on The Positivity Blog, thinks self-kindness include countering negative thoughts, finding time for ourselves, and focusing on the benefits of caregiving. According to Edberg some of these benefits are more perseverance, increased self-esteem, inner happiness, and positive relationships.
I think we have to accept the realities of caregiving and one is not providing instant service. We are people, not machines, and doing the best we can. That’s all anyone can do. Let’s give ourselves a round of applause!