Family Caregivers Rock!
By Sally Abrahms
November is officially Family Caregiver Month. And “Caregiving Around the Clock” is the official theme chosen by the non-profit Caregiver Action Network.
Even though I helped care for three parents—my father, and then simultaneously, my mother and mother-in-law, I lived in the different world of long distance caregiving.
Still, I can tell you that when I’d drive to see my mother and mother-in-law in two different states on the same day, I would return to my own home emotionally and physically depleted. And that was just once a week.
I can’t imagine being on duty ‘round the clock. Not that some caregivers will let me forget that. I wrote a first-person piece for the AARP Bulletin on managing caregiver emotions. A couple of readers were far from impressed. One wrote, “Sally Abrahms can take off her crown now.” Another told me that I was “not a caregiver, but a visitor.” They called me clueless about what real caregiving is and lashed out at me for saying that my parent trips exhausted me.
Their remarks brought to light the long distance vs. live- in family caregiver divide. My point in writing the piece was not to have a who’s-got-it-worse contest—the 24/7 side is clearly the “winner”—but to share my feelings on one type of caregiving. But let’s not talk about me!
Let’s acknowledge the challenges for both kinds of caregivers. (Yes, I will cover those in the trenches ‘round the clock.)
Top challenges for long-distance caregivers
You may not really know what’s going on (if Dad is safe, mobile and eating properly) and when to visit
You may not know the resources in their area
It is hard to arrange care from afar, especially when there’s a sibling who lives closer who won’t/can’t take the lead
You may feel overwhelmed, worried or guilty
It can be costly to make trips to see Mom
I want to mention that some of these issues can be mitigated by hiring an aging life care specialist a.k.a. geriatric care manager to oversee the situation, reaching out to their local Area Agency on Aging to learn about services and programs in the area and aging in place technology.)
24/7 Caregiver Constraints
Being a live-in family caregiver is a whole different beast. You’re like an octopus with eight tentacles going in different directions: you may have your own family and those relationships to manage and nurture; a parent’s health issues that require you to perform complicated medical tasks more suited to an RN; time for yourself (remember that?); master coordinator of transportation, activities, doctor appointments; your swirling emotions that may include guilt, resentment, fear, and burnout; your professional life, a boss and colleagues; your precious sleep; sibling dynamics; and other challenges I may be missing.
In a word, it’s hard. During this special National Caregivers Month, let’s acknowledge the dedication, selflessness and efforts of ‘round the clock caregivers. And let’s steer them to the best resources, programs, services, referrals, advice and information to lighten their load.
These five sites are my favorite picks: