What Caregivers Don’t Tell Anyone

“Sally Abrahms can take her crown off now!” Ouch. That was one response to my story that recently ran in the AARP Bulletin explaining common emotions (guilt, grief, exhaustion) family caregivers have and strategies for dealing with them.

I was writing about my own experience – I’m a long distance caregiver, not someone who lives 24/7 with a sick or chronically needy parent – as well as what I have observed from my work.

That reader could have been less strident, but I do understand her point: being on the job full-time is more draining than what I do caring for someone from afar. Another disgruntled reader accused me of not being “a caregiver, simply a visitor.” Her reasons: I didn’t mention “changing an adult diaper, giving up your career, being tied to your home, watching your mom hallucinate and scream at 2 a.m.” Just because I didn’t mention them doesn’t mean I don’t do it. Right?

Yet the point isn’t who has it worse – a long-distance caregiver or a live-in family caregiver. (But if you want to describe, in the comments section below, what it’s really like to be a nurse/doctor/shrink/chauffeur/cook/companion, vent away!)

The point is that there are things about caregiving we really don’t tell anyone, even someone like me, who makes a living writing about caregiving and elder care. I was curious about what others don’t share with family or friends about their caregiving experiences, so I asked some AARP staff members, who are caregivers. Here are some of their answers:

  • “Seeing a parent of the opposite sex naked. You can never be prepared for that or discuss with family or friends.”
  • “Dealing with those who say, ‘she was fine while I was there.’ My mother can get it together to seem perfectly fine and charming to other people in social situations, but around paid caregivers and me, she unleashes the full frustration of her sadness, rage and confusion.”
  • “Having to play referee between my two parents. It sucks. No one wins.”
  • “Being in charge of my mother-in-law’s personal hygiene including her hemorrhoids. She isn’t even my mother!”
  • “Cleaning up pee and poop from the backseat of the new car or in public. You don’t know what to do first: help them not be embarrassed or clean it up. I don’t discuss this with anyone.”
  • “Being ridden with guilt, but hoping fervently that my parent, who has no quality of life, will die.  I don’t want to keep doing this!”

What are your secret thoughts about caregiving?

Writer’s request: I need to interview a family with a teen or boomerang kid, an adult parent, and their elderly/older parent(s) all living under the same roof. Do you fit the bill or do you know anyone who does? If so, please get in touch at sally@sallyabrahms.com. Thanks!

Follow Sally Abrahms at www.sallyabrahms.com or on LinkedIn.

Photo by Jacqui Jacobs Ply Design courtesy of Creative Commons.