Evolving Relationships and Being a Caregiver

Evolving Relationships and Being a Caregiver

Evolving Relationships and Being a Caregiver

In 2014, NPR published an article about a man, Rick, caregiving for his wife diagnosed with dementia and the challenges that follow adopting such a role [1]. The situation is devastating. The wife can no longer remember that Rick is married to her despite their 42 years of marriage. Since the beginning of his wife’s diagnosis, Rick has not stopped, waking up early every morning to cook breakfast for his wife and getting ready for the day. He is attentive to the various activities his wife needs to perform to maintain a semblance of a normal life, and as a result, he hardly has time for his own life. One of the biggest problems, according to Rick, is social isolation. It’s not just the relationship with Rick’s wife that has altered, but his relationship with friends and surrounding family.

If you are a family caregiver, perhaps points from the above story resonated with your experience. Having a loved one with dementia not only alters your relation with them, but with the other interpersonal relationships that have defined your life up until this point. And this is not your loved one’s fault. It’s a natural consequence of the caregiving experience. And even if you expect this to be the case, it can be an insurmountable challenge. Many caregivers feel as if they should not have to worry about their life and friends over the responsibilities they assume as a caregiver. But this worry is a common one, and it is a worry worth having. Your interpersonal relationships are essential to your emotional and mental health. So you must confront some of the changes that will inevitably take place.

Which leads us to the question: How can a caregiver manage changing relationships? First, the relationship with your loved one is altered because of the illness you both are living with, albeit in different ways. Many caregivers experience complex emotions about their relationship with their loved one throughout their caregiving journey. For instance, they may feel a sense of duty to care for their loved one because they are the spouse, daughter, son, etc. They may perform all their caregiving duties out of genuine love. However, many caregivers feel anger and resentment toward their loved one because of the amount of stress that has been placed on their life. Knowing that you will experience this array of emotions is the first step to managing them and responding to your emotions in logical and healthy ways. Know that it is normal to feel resentment, anger, and guilt as a caregiver. Know also that it is okay to admit limitations and to focus on yourself sometimes. It is okay to ask a close family member, friend, or even hiring a professional to take over for a few hours out of the day so you can give yourself some time alone. Which leads us to the second point in our discussion: Maintaining social relationships apart from your loved one.

It is true that your daily schedule is packed with responsibilities and tasks to perform as a caregiver. But what if you did have a few hours to yourself? What if your friend agreed to help for a few hours to watch over your loved one? What if you found a set of arrangements that gave you a little more flexibility with your schedule? If you had some extra time, it could make a world of difference catching up with other friends and family members. Even if this is something you choose not to do, it could be beneficial to spend some time alone, walking, thinking, and organizing your thoughts. In other words, you should not feel guilty for desiring other arrangements. And if you are able to work out arrangements that give you some time to yourself, it is crucially beneficial to your mental health for you to pursue them. We are not providing you with a plan or making specific suggestions. We just want to convey that all of your emotions are justified, and it is okay to want moments when you are not expected to be a caregiver. Focusing on yourself at times can even make you a better caregiver.

If you have any questions, feel free to call ElderCare at 888-285-0093 or visit our website.

[1] Source: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/07/04/325810067/as-a-husband-becomes-caregiver-to-his-wife-a-marriage-evolves

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