“I did not expect to go down like this. I am in a bind now, my wife is not keeping good health and I am not able to take care of her or myself”, Paul (not his real name) was sharing his frustration with me. I met Paul at a nursing home. The nursing home has declared that Paul is ready to go home, even though he cannot even move his own wheelchair ten feet at a time.
Paul has been taking care of his wife for about 7 years now. His wife, Andrea (not her real name) is a stroke victim with one side of her body completely paralyzed. Paul has been keeping good health and hence did not consider taking any help. Everything was going fine until recently, when after returning from a doctor’s visit, Paul collapsed. He has been in hospitals and nursing homes for the last few weeks. He has been very worried about the wellbeing of his wife, and now himself as well.
We come across several such instances. As the family caregiver, the stress builds up progressively and cumulatively. The family caregiver often associates considering some form of help with guilt. They feel singularly responsible to provide care to their loved one, and sometimes feel selfish or inadequate when they feel the need to reach out for help.
We want to express that although it is understandable to want to provide as much care and support to your loved one as possible, we also want to support caregivers who sometimes need extra hands on deck. Here is what we would normally tell someone like Paul.
You cannot be the husband, father and caregiver
You have the best intentions. However, you are as human as anyone else is, and you have needs to meet to insure your own wellness. If you try to do everything, this may progressively affect and ruin your health. You should continue to be the husband and the dad and should consider getting some care-giving help. Additionally, if your situation is like Paul’s and you are taking care of a spouse, there might be a day when you will both need care-giving. Having some foresight for this possibility will ensure better conditions and quality of life for the both of you. Getting some help now can avoid needing a lot of help later on.
Start with Respite Care
Paul, choose a day in the week where your wife can be taken care of by a caregiver. Use this day to relax, and get your things done. Go out and do your stuff. Your wife will be well taken care of.
Other clients in need of care also use this service, whether it be for one day or longer periods at a time. Recently we were taking care of Janet for about 45 days when her daughter was away on vacation. Janet sends her daughter away on vacation every year as she has been the primary caregiver for her mom for several years. Janet sent her daughter on a world cruise, while we took care of Janet.
Consider a few hours of help each day
Try getting a few hours of help every day. Remember that of the 24 hours in a day, you are still the primary caregiver. With respite care, caregiving services are there only for 20-30% of the time. You are still taking care of your wife for the rest of the time.
Avoid feeling guilty
In no case should you feel like you are not doing enough. Familiar caregivers often experience this sense of guilt, but in reality you are doing more than enough. You are doing more than what others would normally do. More importantly, you are not the reason for your wife’s poor health.
Hence there should be no reason for you to feel guilty about taking care of yourself. In reality this is a pure act of love. You are taking care of yourself to take better care of your wife.
Most importantly, you can always contact me if you need help. I am just a phone call away at 626-639-0226.