@Yafa I'm so sorry you and your parents are having such a rough time. It's so much to deal with on every level - emotionally, physically, mentally. I hear you.
I can relate. I cared for both of my parents and my oldest sister at the same time - my parents were in the same place and my sister was 2000 miles away and I was working full time, traveling for work...it really does get overwhelming! But the part you mention - the emotional and mental strain of being their advocate and making decisions and explaining and the gazillion phone calls - that is incredibly depleting.
I always felt like I'm basically living multiple people's lives! We have our own lives and all of the complications of that - our health, home, work, relationships, animals etc. and then we are in a situation where are doing all of that for another person - and sometimes multiple other people! I'm here to tell you it IS a lot. Of course it feels overwhelming!
On top of that the emotional aspects of loss, of seeing our loved ones change and not be able to manage their lives - it's a lot to deal with...
Here's what I learned:
1) I can do anything but I cannot do everything! I tell people this a lot because once I accepted this fact it helped me deal with it all.
2) Caregiving is a lot of giving, giving, giving - we give it all and that can leave us on empty. My car can't run efficiently on an empty tank (it can't run at all when truly empty!) and guess what neither can we.
So I learned to do things to fill back up.
- Little things - quick things are mostly what we can do when caregiving. A cup of coffee, calling a friend, connecting online, buying yoursself flowers, meditating or practicing mindfulness, petting the dog... you are the expert on what fills you up.
- Premium fill-ups - a support group meeting, a movie, dinner with a friend, time with loved ones, quality time with those we care for, exercise class, creative class, a walk...again you know what's best for you.
- Tune -ups - periodic time away from caregiving - I mean you are not caring for anyone else. Yes, you may be doing some phone check-ins but primarily you have a few hours, a day, a weekend, a few days or preferably a week or even two - when not up to your eyeballs in caregiving. This is the hardest to acheive. So start small. Consciously take breaks for an hour or so here and there.
- Routine maintenance: Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. That is a must. Eat well, exercise, go to your doc appts. Do the things on a regular basis that keep you sane, healthy and able to get up and go.
I share these because this is literally how I got through more than a decade of intense caregiving or multiple family members!
In addition to this online community, we also have a Facebook Group that I moderate - be sure to join there are more than 7000 caregivers there and always someone to give you support, advice, understanding etc.
You can also try to find a local in-person support group. I'd start by calling your area agency on aging and ask for a list of local caregiver support groups and any other caregiver support programs they know of. You can find your area agency on aging by using the Eldercare Locator.
I got through the hardest years of my life, and I feel sure that you will too. The one thing we can be sure we can be successful at is being there - showing up for our loved ones and doing our best. You don't have to be perfect or have all the answers or fix it all. But you are there and you choose to care - please feel good about that! That will nurture your soul and keep you going! There are millions of elders who have no one looking out for them and it's not because they don't have family. Not everyone steps up like you are.
You are resilient!
THANK YOU for all you are doing for your parents! YOU ROCK! Seriously. Hope to see you here again and in the Facebook group.
Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert
Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving