What is it like being a caregiver? I’ll tell you what it’s like.
In fact, I’d say it’s the toughest job I’ve ever done.
(Keep in mind, my perspective comes from being a caregiver for a parent – my mom – who had dementia. I cannot speak for caregivers of children or spouses but I can imagine that it’s equally as tough.)
Why is being a caregiver so hard
There are many reasons why being a caregiver is so hard. Your life changes completely.
The 19th suggestion on my list of 19 Suggestions to Start Today once you receive a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment is this —> Understand that your life kinda takes a back seat for a while.
You can find the other 18 suggestions in the freebie below.
Think long and hard before you become a caregiver for a family member because once you become a caregiver your focus is on that person and not yourself.
What is the hardest part or most difficult part
With dementia I think the most difficult part of being a caregiver is seeing the person you know change. They are still the same person appearance wise, but gradually memory goes to the point where they don’t know who you are or where they are.
But there’s also …..
Watching your loved one reach the point where they don’t know who you are or your name.
Having to feed your loved one because they don’t know how to eat anymore.
Wiping your loved one’s butt after going to the bathroom or better yet, cleaning poop off of furniture.
Being constantly afraid that your loved one will wander away.
Worried that your loved one will walk out of the house in the middle of the night trying to go home.
Reminding your parent to go to the bathroom and making sure they have clean clothes on.
This post doesn’t even go into the financial aspect of caregiving, but that’s another difficulty if you’re paying for care out of your pocket.
In my case, I wasn’t sure how Mom’s dementia was going to progress so rather than working full time, I had multiple part time jobs. Since you aren’t employed full time you don’t have health benefits so that becomes a challenge.
It was a role reversal
I became the mother to my mother.
I woke Mom up in the morning, got her shower water running so it was nice and warm. Mom would often say she didn’t need to shower so I had to learn how to cajole her into taking one. Then she’d remark how good she felt afterwards! 😃 While she showered, I’d get her clothes out. If you didn’t get her clothes out she’d wear the same thing day after day.
I fixed meals for Mom. I tried once leaving a plate for her in the fridge with a note on how to heat it up in the microwave. Yeah, that didn’t go over so well! If I wasn’t there to fix her dinner, she wouldn’t eat.
A person with dementia is likely to keep their clothes on when they go to bed and go directly to bed! Therefore, a little guidance is needed. I would put out the toothbrush and toothpaste and urge Mom to brush her teeth, then get out her jammies while she was brushing. After getting her to go to the bathroom I would help her get into her pjs and make sure she got into the bed.
You can’t guarantee that your loved one knows when to take what meds, so once a week I took out the weekly pill containers and put the pills in the proper spot. Each day I would set out Mom’s “day of pills” and give them to her at the proper times.
I drove Mom to all her doctor appointments. At first I could drop her off and let her go into the doctor’s office while I parked the car. As her memory worsened she wasn’t able to go in by herself. If your loved one isn’t mobile on their own, oftentimes you need a third person to help with the transport into the office while you park the car.
The same applies if you’re going to a planned outing such as a concert or a party. There were times when another person going along with you and your loved one came in handy.
The Most Challenging part about being a caregiver
For me, the most challenging part I think was the repetition.
In hindsight, I wish I had taken more time to research how to handle answering the same question over and over again as well as techniques to distract a person so they think of something else.
I didn’t know how to answer my mom when she asked me where the baby was or who was taking care of the little one? What baby? What little one? Was she at the time in her life where she had babies? How do you handle that?
Your feelings are a challenge. As a caregiver, there’s guilt, frustration and anger to mention a few.
There is such a thing as caregiver stress. See this post here. If you don’t watch out, as a caregiver you’ll become sick and then where will your loved one be?
I mentioned earlier that your life takes a back seat for a while. You are so focused on taking care of your loved one and getting by day to day that you don’t take care of yourself.
In my case, over the time span I was Mom’s caregiver I gained weight. Dementia patients like their sweet stuff and my mom was right there. Sweets for breakfast and sweet desserts after dinner. She especially liked her snack sized candy bars! Of course, when stuff like that was in the house, you know who snacked on them too!
Now here I am, 4 years later, working on losing that weight I put on during the time I was her caregiver.
Is being a caregiver a hard job
No matter whether you are employed as a caregiver or are a caregiver for a loved one in your family, being a caregiver is hard.
Is it worth being a caregiver
That’ll be up to you. If you enjoy taking care of people then yes it is worth it.
In my case, it was worth it. I know that I provided my mom a better life over the course of her 9 year dementia journey, in her own home, than she would have gotten anywhere else.