The author of One Caregiver’s Journey asks “what life?” when she talks about the life of a caregiver. Caregiving requires paying close attention to details –noticing minor health and behavioral changes. Caregiving involves having total comprehension of a vulnerable adult’s dietary preferences, safety, hygiene and health. Although at times it seems daunting, caregiving is not a permanent situation: it is a temporary duty you assume, only if you choose to do so.
Below are some of the attributes of what life as a caregiver might really looks like.
Caregiving is a commitment. It requires a 24/7 commitment to take care of your loved one. It’s possible a 24/7 caregiver may not be able to work outside the home or may need to work remotely from your home to make a living. The bills still need to be paid, food put on the table and a reality check of whether or not you can live without a paycheck. Working from home is an option if you can find a job that offers the greater flexibility, but 24/7 caregivers cannot leave home on a whim to go to work.
Caregiving requires you to be flexible and adaptive. Everything changes when you start to provide care for your loved one, including your lifestyle. In making such a change, you will lose your individuality and independence because your everyday routine is based upon the needs of another person. In the event of an emergency or health issue you will needevery ounce of energy you have to help your loved one. But when care stops being a temporary interruption in your normal life and turns into a long-term duty, you will need to create various approaches to prevent caregiver burnout (Signs of having caregiver burnout will be discussed in a separate post.).
Caregiving requires you to understand the changes in your relationship. Your circle of friends will become much smaller once you become a caregiver. Those who remain your friends were probably caregivers or have older family members they check in or care for on a routine basis. No one else can comprehend your caregiving life, particularly individuals whose family members reside across the nation and whose caregivers are their siblings. You cannot leave on a whim or at a spontaneous notice when your friends invite you for dinner or a casual outing. You will experience people abruptly ending their friendship with you. They quit calling as if they have disappeared from the face of the earth. Be ready when your friends disappear so you can become self-sufficient and learn to be comfortable alone. Besides, friendships are not built to last if your friends don’t understand why you chose to become a caregiver.
Being a caregiver does not allow for a social life. Your social life disappears when you become a full-time caregiver. Providing a loved one with care and security overrules being able to go out to party or dance on a Saturday night. As your loved one ages, you are eventually secluded within your home’s four walls. You may restrict your social encounters to the grocery store, the doctor’s office, or the local department store, each for a very brief stop. Walking through the mall to check for the latest new fashion trends or attending a church service becomes virtually impossible to do. As your capacity to work outside the home is dwindling and friends are falling by the wayside, you will quickly realize that going out to a movie, lunch or dinner is no longer possible.
Caregiving makes you appreciate having a support system. It’s good to have friends who remain with you and especially friends who are or were nurses, since they are a great source for reliable assistance, ideas and experience. It is such a great blessing to have friends since they might offer to provide a period of respite replace you for a night so you can take a short break and then return refreshed and relaxed for another few months. Your loved one might be more comfortable with relatives and siblings if they can assist in providing occasional relief for an hour or two during your caregiving journey. Having a support system is indeed important throughout your journey.