When is it time to find help if the burdens of caring for another become too great for you or someone you love?
When was the last time that you washed your own laundry, went shopping for yourself or just took an hour or so to sit and breathe?
In 1981, my father had a stroke that debilitated him and thus took him out of the workforce, bringing him home to Mom to be cared for. The task of taking care of Dad was difficult for Mom, so I began helping her occasionally by fixing a meal or taking out the garbage, running to the store or just spending time entertaining Dad.
I was happy to be there to help out, but time away from my photography business meant I accepted fewer photo jobs out of necessity, and my customers started hiring someone else. I lost money immediately. I was also trying to help my partner finish law school, so the bills were piling up and we had no money to pay them.
The stress of my situation lasted for five years, and in time I virtually lost my business and I absolutely lost my relationship. I was glad to be there to help out Mom and have time getting to know Dad better, but it came with significant costs to me, emotionally and financially.
A decade or so after Dad died Mom began to have problems with her sight. One day Mom backed her car into another car while trying to parallel park, and although there was very minor damage to the car she hit, her doctor found that she had cataracts in her eyes. That diagnoses forced her to stop driving. I became her chauffeur for parties, groceries, doctor appointments and whatnot.
After the second time Mom forgot her house keys in the lock on the outside of her front door and fell asleep in front of the TV with something cooking on the stove I moved her into my home. For her safety and my peace of mind I had to do something.
At the time I was single and planned to spend my life responsible for only my needs, but as time went on Mom really needed me to help. It was clear that my carefree days were over. Mom did not need a lot of personal or daily medical care, just help with everyday things like writing checks, cooking, driving or making phone calls for her.
My time caregiving happened during the 1980s and 1990s, before there was much discussion about the burnout rate of caregivers. Back then most of the attention was focused on the person needing services.
Today, thanks to the results of studies on stresses of caregiving and increased funding for social services on the local and national levels, there are many answers to what the caregiver can do to keep the stress levels down and find help with helping others. Next week I will outline some exciting events coming to Monroe that address these needs.
Keep tuned for more!