Without a doubt, the decision to become a family caregiver can bring with it a feeling of doing the right thing. In fact, I think it safe to say that this feeling often accompanies this decision. Often the other family members are very excited about your decision, perhaps mostly because you’re taking it on means they no longer feel they should be stepping up to the plate. In cases where the care recipient is aware at the time of your decision, often they express feelings of gratitude, thus allowing her or him to relax about their coming phase of life, which is fabled to be the golden years, when people can sit back, relax, and soak in these golden years.
For many caregivers and care recipients the next phase can be less than golden, as the caregivers endeavour to clear away the clutter, which can range from tidying garages, garden sheds, the collection of discarded doors, gutters, and so on from the side of the house where the sun never shines … to having to do a complete culling of years of collecting all sorts of things that never got used, including toxic chemicals to rotten and gotten food. If you are lucky, everyone concerned, including the care recipient, praises you during this phase. However judging from my own experience, and that of other caregivers with whom I have spoken, this post often is not the case. After all, the care recipients have spent decades building this collection, only to watch as it is demolished. But, I digress.
As we move along in this journey, and particularly through the difficult periods, each and every family caregiver will experience feelings of anger and frustration when we can’t help but reveal these feeling to our care recipients. Very likely these feelings are followed by strong feelings of guilt, and I ask you to remember that you are not alone and to forgive yourself. Depending upon your situation, you will have to be the judge of whether or not you will offer up an apology to your care recipient, and possibly an explanation as to why your became frustrated. If you are in this family caregiving situation with a partner, sharing your frustration and loss of cool, and talking through the situation can be particularly helpful. In fact, don’t be surprised if said partner confesses to you a similar experience or two! After all, we are human and can’t always be the picture of poise and control. Try to remember, also, that similar conversations can be helpful with other family members and family caregivers in similar situations.
Yours in caregiving,