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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Your Dying Spouse 257 - The Overwhelmed Caregiver

We're linked with Messy Marriage's From Messes To Messages please visit Beth's site for some great marriage resources!

Being a caregiver can eat you up, and that's no joke. Being overwhelmed is an occupational hazard.

There are just so many things you have to balance, in action and planning...and you may have to be the Chief Morale Officer as well, when your husband or wife is going through a bad patch.

And you've got to do it all well, because another person is completely dependent upon you.

It's not surprising that many caregivers 'break down', and become either emotionally shattered or numb. You can only go so far, so fast, for so long.

And there is always the knowledge that you have to do it again tomorrow, and the day after that.

An endless succession of obligation leading to an ending that you know is going to be hard.

How to cope? Is there a way to cope?

Well, yes, at least to a degree.

  • First and foremost, understand that being overwhelmed is normal, and don't beat yourself up for it. Even Jesus was overwhelmed by crowds, and crossed the Sea of Galilee to get away from them.
  • Maintain friendships, if possible, with people in whom you can confide when the going gets frustrating. This may seem hard, with the demands on your time, but you will - I hope - find that the friends you have will be more than understanding and will meet you more than halfway.
  • Join a caregiver support group at your church, if such exists. It's good to know you're not alone.
  • Try to arrange for reliable respite care, to give you an occasional day off. Your spouse may raise a fuss ("Hey, I'm going to be dead in a few months and you're going bowling?") but stand firm. You have to take care of yourself, and hat means occasionally getting out of the caregiving environment for something other than work, church, and shopping.
  • Keep a journal for your eyes only. Perhaps better, keep a prayer journal, in which you can pour out your heart to the Almighty on how hard and unfair all of this is...because it is both hard and unfair.
  • Carve out a physical niche for yourself to which you can retreat for a few minutes...kind of like a kid's fort made of blankets and cushions. Use it to journal, read, or just have a cup of coffee. Or a beer. If you have an overstocked garage or 'box room', consider rearranging some of the boxes to give yourself a seat...and a kind of privacy wall.
  • If you have a meltdown in front of the patient...and at some point you will...don't try to deny it or cover it up. Apologise and move on. (But don't use it as a kind of justification for "See, I really need to get some time away!" That can come across as opportunism, or a setup...even though it's quite true.)
What would you add? How would you suggest a caregiver cope with the feeling of being overwhelmed?

I have another blog, "Starting The Day With Grace". The focus is a grace quote from someone you might not expect (like, say Mick Jagger) and a short commentary. I hope you'll join me.

Marley update... been moved to a sanctuary, and Bay County will revise their 'dangerous dog' codes.


And marley has a Facebook page! Please drop by to see how happy he is today.

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  1. Great suggestions, Andrew. It's easy to get stuck in a rut.

    1. You're so right, Norma. Easy to get into a rut - hard to get out!

  2. Such a great post, Andrew. I like the idea of having a place where the caregiver can go and hide for a little while. WE all need a time out now and then, and when the hideaway is comfortable? Even better.

    Thanks for sharing your insights!

    1. Thanks so much, Jeanne! I think the hideaway is really important; caregiving can suck away one's identity so fast, that having 'my place' can make a world of difference in being able to survive.

      Thanks so much for being here!

  3. I love that your wisdom isn't just a cerebral thing, but that you continue to offer us hands-on, practical steps to help us navigate this difficult season.

    Always appreciative, Andrew ... and hoping that you're finding some bright moments as you make your way through this week.

    1. Linda, thank you so much for this.

      And...every moment has brightness, if i take the trouble to look. God does not disappoint.

  4. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this. My fil has been diagnosed recently with ALS and my mil is in much of this advice. It is neat to see how God is using you. Thanks for your insight.

    1. Oh, Kristina! You are in my prayers, as is your MIL and your husband. Please, PLEASE lean into God's arms!

      He loves you more than you can ever imagine.

      And this...ALS is a necessary result of a fallen world, but God absolutely HATES it. He can't break His own rules that require the free will to choose Him...but He is ON YOUR SIDE.

      My heart goes out to you, dear Kristina.

  5. My biggest surprise after my years of caring for my husband ended was "I was not ready for it to end" I thought I had prepared myself. I was tired. I was frustrated. I was angry! And taking care of him was so hard. I wish that I had heeded advice like you are giving. But I didn't! And most caregivers won't either! One of the best pieces of advice I can offer to all caregivers is to Forgive Yourself! Because you will need to forgive yourself. Thank you Andrew! Hugs!!

    1. Paula, once again, you've brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this. Hugs back!