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Caregiver Meltdown

Posted on 07/20/2011 by |Aging, Home & Family Expert | Comments

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There I was in the middle of Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, when I was told I was 8 minutes too late to check my bag for the flight. I was trying to get to Indianapolis for a memorial service for my uncle. Missing a flight would upset any traveler, but my reaction surprised even me.

Total and complete meltdown. All caregivers melt down now and then. Amy Goyer shares her meltdown story when she reached the end of her rope at an airport.

You know the kind — sobbing uncontrollably to the point where the airline attendant had no idea what to do.

I sat down on one of those hard plastic chairs, but people began to stare, so I went into the bathroom, locked myself in a stall and sobbed with great abandon.

As I cried (and it was an all out snort-cry as my friend, Mary, calls it) and talked to my sister on the phone, I knew people could hear me far and wide. I didn’t care. I was way past the point of embarrassment.

How did I get to this point? Can you say “stress?” Oh yes. Let me tell you about the prior week…..

As you know, I am caregiving for my parents.  Shortly before my airport meltdown, I’d been on a business trip that kept me away for two nights. During that time, my Mom fell and my Dad developed an abscessed tooth. On top of all that, Mom developed a bad intestinal flu AND shingles!

I had stayed with them almost 24/7 all week, and we had two more emergency squad visits because my mom fell two more times,  both with transport to the hospital, one at midnight and the other at 3 am. Both trips resulted in all-night ER stays and no sleep. Thankfully, no broken bones or hematoma for Mom!

One of her falls happened literally 1 minute after I left her alone in the bathroom after having gone over and over the use of her walker, always holding on to something etc. But she had gone to get something out of her closet and didn’t use the walker…and fell as she turned.

Mom – always a good sport even in the ER

I felt terrible! I think I was so tired that I didn’t make the best choice at that moment…a typical caregiver’s lament.

She said she’d done it so many times before and it was automatic — she just didn’t think about her walker. And she was so tired and depleted it’s no wonder she wasn’t thinking well either.

Well the good news is, I finally stopped crying at the airport, got a flight the next day…and got some sleep.

Mom is getting better, and I arranged for help from my niece and sister and my wonderful concierge, Debbie. So I went off on another business trip…so far no more falls or ER visits! Mom is gaining strength and Dad is minus 3 teeth now. He’s still got a great grin.

And I am a whole lot lighter after my big meltdown!

My experience brings home the point that as caregivers we need to take care of ourselves…if we don’t, we will drive ourselves to the breaking point…and perhaps cause a bit of a stir in an airport!

Next time we go through a crisis week like that (and I’m sure there will be more of them), I will do things a bit differently…especially prioritizing getting more sleep – and more help!