@LisaW1964 Oh Lisa! You certainly have your hands full. It's no wonder you are feeling worn out! You have so much stress - in terms of caregiving, finances (and caregiving pushes your finances in addition to work changes), caring for your daughter and your husband had a stroke too. And then you've had work changes too. These are some of the most stressful life events anyone experiences. This video about The Emotions of Caregiving can be helpful to understand what is happening.
There are some red flags that tell you that you are depleted and exhausted (mentally, emotionally, physically...) and maybe in "burnout". Feeling angry and impatient with your mother is one of them. When you start to feel like you are not yourself it's a sign that something needs to change and you need to care for yourself too. I've been a caregiver my entire adult life for grandparents, parents, sister and others...so I've learned a lot about this! The analogy that works for me is my car. My car can't run on empty and neither can I. So I have to fill my tank and care for myself just as I care for my car - or it just won't run anymore. It's practical, not selfish to care for yourself.
Only you know best what fills you up, nurtures your soul, gives you energy and peace. But you are crazy busy - so most of the time you need "quick tank-fillers" - like a good cup of coffee, a short walk, talking to a friend, coming here to the online community, looking at holiday decorations, hugging your loved ones etc. But in addition to that you need "premium fill-ups" - a couple of hours when you watch a movie (maybe with your loved ones), take a class, go shopping, exercise, dinner with a friend etc. You also need "tune-ups" - time away from caregiving for a few days or better yet a week or two. Time when you are not caring for ANYONE (I'll share some ideas about that in a minute). And last but not least - "routine maintenance" - SLEEP is #1 priority! And eating healthy food, exercising, getting your medical check-ups, and ongoing things - a hot bath once a week or whatever helps you. It has to be a BALANCE of all of these things - you cannot live on quick tank-fillers alone! 🙂 So even if you start to be more aware of what fills your tank and helps you keep going, you'll automatically make more of an effort and consciusly think about filling your own tank.
OK, so you still have a challenge in terms of all you do is work, care for your mom and try to squeeze in time with your husband and daughter. There is no shame in asking for help. Unfortunately you can't expect others to volunteer to help - you need to seek help and choose to accept it in order to survive. Your family not helping is a big challenge. I can imagine how it makes you feel when you are doing so much. A few suggestions (and I apologize if you have already tried some of these things!
- Many people need to be asked to do specific things - they don't know what to do. So you might ask, Please come Saturday and stay with mom from 2-6pm? Please bring a meal over once a month? Can you please call Mom one day a week? etc. If they all take turns then the time is spread out more.
- I found that it was sometimes easier to get help for me rather than direct care for my loved ones. You could explain that you are getting burned out, you do not want to place your mom in a nursing facility, but it would help you a lot if you had some support from them. They could clean, do yardwork, shopping, make meals, do laundry, run errands etc. to free you up for the direct care.
- You can try family mediation - an objective third party may be able to help you all work out a better balance on your care team. A faith-community leader, trained therapist, or a trained family or eldercare mediator.
- You may need to be more forceful and clear with your family - you've been doing this a long time and you don't want to become so burned out that you can't care for your mom. If you become ill then the whole thing falls apart. It's time for them to pitch in. It doesn't mean you want to walk away - it's just that the current distribution of care needs to be re-balanced.
- Have you looked into respite care? It's amazing that you have help from your mom's insurance M-F, but occassionally you need some time on the weekends too - becuase that's when you aren't working and can do other things.
- Will the insurance pay for additional help on a weekend now and then?
- You can contact your area agency on aging and ask about respite care programs in your area. Visit AARP's Community Resource Finder and click on "Community Resources", think check off 'area agency on aging". Call and explain your situation and ask about any respite care programs in your area - either free, or sliding fee scale. Sometimes there are even local volunteers who work with respite programs. You might also ask at your faith community if anyone would be willing to help.
- Some respite programs (and hospice) have respite facilities, or will pay for your mom to be in a facility just for one week to give you a break or enable you to take a vacation (or a staycation!) You might ask her insurance about that.
- Here is a video about How to Find Respite Care
As we head into the holiday season, be aware that there extra added stress for you! Here is my column with 10 Tips for Caregivers During the Holidays!
There is a lot more info and ideas on the AARP Family Caregiving site too!
Best wishes to you and please keep us posted and let us know how else we can help!
Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert
Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving and
Color Your Way Content When Caring for Loved Ones