A roller coaster ride of emotions can often accompany the selfless service of a caregiver. These alternating highs and lows range from overwhelming to rewarding, exhausting to fulfilling, and frustrating to purposeful.
Caregivers often neglect themselves because they are too tired or too busy. Their needs are relegated to a back burner until time permits or urgency demands otherwise. Basic nutrition and exercise can suffer. These providers often find themselves more susceptible to depression and chronic illness. Changes in sleep patterns and appetite may surface. Many have to balance a job and/or parenting alongside their caregiving services. Possible lack of money or other resources bring added burdens.
Responsibilities in caring for their loved one may include grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning, activities of daily living and physical care (toiletries/bathing/feeding/dressing), doctor’s appointments, therapy, and trips to the pharmacy. Feelings of isolation and even neglect of their spiritual health can result. There is often less time to devote to personal Bible study and worship services at their church.
For adult children caring for an elderly parent, role confusion may be an issue. It is often difficult to distinguish their role as caregiver from their role as daughter or son. The same can be true for husbands and wives. When the prognosis is such that the patient’s health will not improve, the caregiver can experience helplessness or hopelessness.
Some caregivers feel a weight of guilt if they spend time on themselves for any reason. But without the time to refresh and recharge, they can succumb to symptoms of stress and burnout. They may withdraw from family and friends, losing interest in activities they have previously enjoyed. Self-imputed demands and unrealistic expectations may lead to feelings of inadequacy.
To all caregivers who feel bewildered, I would offer this:
Without some degree of “personal time” to rest and reflect, you will eventually drop. You are, after all, only human. Though it may not be easy, allow yourself to accept the help that others offer. Most people would be delighted to know that they have helped in some small, or not so small, way.
This may not be the ultimate time for a vacation, but a little respite time each day can refresh like a cool drink of water on a hot summer’s day. A few minutes to read a chapter of a book, or take a warm shower, or have a cup of tea can lift your spirit.
You are truly our unsung heroes. Your treasures are safely tucked away “where neither moth nor rust destroys” (reference Matthew 6:20). Give your anxieties, worries and exhaustion to God. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 / KJV)