Caregiving is a Family Affair
My family has been involved with my mom's care since she came to live with us. I thought I would ask my husband his thoughts on all of this.
A caregivers perspective
The caregiver may have blind spots because they are so close to the situation. What pitfalls do you see?
I don't think it would ever be possible to be completely objective when caring so closely and completely for a family member when they are living with you. Having another pair of eyes helps in many ways.
For me, I am able to remove some of the emotion and really analyze even subtle changes in my mother-in-law, ones that may have been easily missed if I was not so involved in the daily routines of life.
Self-care: a caregiving necessity
Self-care is important, too. It is easy for the primary caregiver to be so focused on the daily tasks of food preparation, making sure medicines are taken, and handling other familial responsibilities that they ignore their own needs.
Caregiving is a grind. Taking time for yourself can be relegated to the bottom of the to-do list. I try to encourage Kathy to find time to be creative, exercise and watch her favorite show.
What cautions would you give other caregivers?
Caregiving can become all-consuming. Get supports.
Find community. Research what others are doing. Live a balanced life. Exercise, eat right, give time to hobbies.
You can't help others if you have nothing in the tank. Also, engage others in sharing the load. It can be a heavy burden, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Find allies who can help.
Many positives to family caregiving
What positive things have you seen since your family became caregivers?
There are so many positives. I think this is a great example to our children, their friends, and those we know. Loving and caring for others can spur others to do the same. I have had many comments admiring the fact that we are taking care of Kathy's mom. I think it has the effect of encouraging others to do the same if they can.
Another positive impact is having a different generation in the home. It adds to the conversations, the dialogue. It brings another perspective and culture. Living with someone who was born before World War II, someone who grew up in a home with an outhouse, is like sharing space with a living history book. There is never a lack of a story.
Helping my family is my responsibility
Do you find yourself more resentful or proud or somewhere in between, in this situation?
At times, I feel all of it. Sometimes I feel like I am missing the privacy I would have had with my wife if things were different.
My mother-in-law is super gracious and is not demanding. But still, I never thought when I met her, when Kathy and I were dating, that she would become part of my life so intimately and for so long. I don't resent the choices we have made, neither am I proud of them. They don't make me an amazing person.
I think helping my family is a responsibility that comes along with being part of one. I don't see it as a duty to be carried out grudgingly, but more of a responsibility to be embraced.
Thanks, babe! It is helpful to keep a dialogue and sort of "family health checkup". I'm glad we are in this together, that you feel that, too. Whew!
Check-in with your family
Ask your family, too! I know it's scary. What did your spouse say? Don't guess, that's called assuming. Ask. How did it go? What did you learn? Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
Are you a male caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer's disease?