Do you ever find yourself feeling guilty for getting tired of giving care – for wanting a bit of TLC for yourself for a change? Relax, because this is normal: A recent Google search for “stress trapped caregivers” returned nearly 900,000 hits. Some lead to very lengthy comment pages filled with tales of feeding and caring for elderly parents. Many have to devote full-time hours, and energy, to this. Such intensive care can become all-consuming of our time and attention, and some caregivers lose touch with friends and other support networks without having time to notice or forestall this from happening. The phrase “parent trap” pops up pretty frequently among articles on elder care. Many comments come from the Baby Boomer element—the generation whose members are now reaching their 60’s and caring for parents in their 80’s and 90’s.
Common issues discussed by caregivers:
- Feeling isolated and trapped within our homes
- Scrambling to keep up with a seemingly bottomless pit of needs
- Raising children into adulthood – then turning around to care for another dependent.
- Medical science extends life, but quality of life still declines – meaning more years of parental dependence.
Full-time care-giving can be stressful. Needs can occur any time in the 24-hour day, similar to parenting young children. Tasks can seem never-ending, keeping a predictable schedule is not possible, and as the caregiver’s energy is sapped, the days just feel longer and longer. Friends and other family members seem to be too wrapped up in their own lives to help, and the caregiver slogs on alone at home. No one calls; no one offers to help out. Getting out of the house to see someone – anyone! – and to have a conversation about something novel is a longed-for treat.
What contributes to caregivers’ stress?
- Guilt – Our parents gave us so much; now we are honor-bound to give back everything we can.
- Fear of being labeled “selfish,” or “neglectful” for wanting time off, or worse: Moving our helpless parents to a nursing home
- Fear that we cannot handle the pressure
- Fighting the dark hope for an end to the job – who wants to wish our parents dead?
If this article describes your situation, even in part, stop beating yourself up, and be sure to read “Solutions to the Parent Trap” Part Two in our next newsletter, and Part Three in the following edition!