@TinLizzie48 It sounds totally "normal" that you are feeling fear and maybe overwhelmed. I don't say that to minimize what you're feeling - the opposite - to validate it. Of course you feel that way - your dad is aging and changing and there is more and more pressure on you. I get it. Dad lived with me for 6 years. He had Alzheimer's. Mom was with us the first year as well before she passed on suddenly. So I understand the pressure. Sometimes we feel like ok, I've got this, I've figure it out and we have a routine and I can handle this. Then something changes - a crisis or a health condition worsens or something completely new comes up. It's intense.
My dad died about 2 yrs ago and I'm still adjusting to being without him. But I can tell you that, while I did sacrifice things, I wouldn't change it. No regrets. My tip for you is to think every day about what you'll look back on and feel good about. Do more of that. Whether it's taking the time to give him a hug or sit and watch tv with him, or advocating for him with the doctor or cooking his favorite food. Consciously be aware of the incredible things you're doing and give yourself some kudos for them.
I developed a philosophy for survival when I was caring for my parents (and my sister in another state). It came about because one day I was driving and realized my gas tank was on empty. I made it to the gas station but realized after I filled the car up that it actually ran so much better on a FULL tank of gas! It was my aha moment - I was expecting myself to run on empty and be just as efficient ALL the time. I can't expect my car to do that and the reality is neither can I - as much as I would have liked to!
So I started looking at things that "fill me up" - my body, my mind, my soul, my heart. And I consciously thought of my internal "tank" filling up when I did them. I'd literally envision that gas gauge needle moving! It helped me SO much over those years and I still do it. Try looking at it this way:
- Quick tank-fillers - cup of coffee, call a friend, walk around the block or some jumping jacks, looking at flowers (I kept some in the house whenever possible), petting the dog, a hug etc., escape looking at photos on instagram (you do this - good!), connect with another caregiver (I moderate the Facebook Group Jane told you about - it's an amazing support system you might want to just try it! Everyone there are caregivers going through what you're going through or similar.) and do stay active here in the AARP Online Community!
- Premium fill-ups - longer things - like watching a movie, reading, attending a support group meeting, taking a class (online or in person), a long walk, dance, out to eat, doctor appts, therapy etc.
- Tune-ups - time away from caregiving
- Routine Maintenance - SLEEP (#1 for me!), eating well, exercise, mindfulness, taking your medications, health care...whatever the things are for you that need to be ongoing (it's different for everyone - except for sleep, nutrition and exercise!).
We all need some of EACH of these categories - one caregiver told me after I presented this system that she realized she'd only been getting the quick fill-ups and needed to balance with some of the others. Exactly right. This system truly saved me and the key is to do it consciously. It made me allow myself to do things that fill me up without the guilt. It's not selfish, it's practical.
Hope this system might work for you! Burnout is a very real things, and if you're heading that way you've got to start filling back up. If you're already there, all the more imperative.
My heart goes out to you - your dad is so lucky to have you! We are here to support you!!!
Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert
Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving