I witness caregivers struggling to manage their loved one’s illnesses. Ensuring daily needs are being met, doctors’ appointments scheduled and attended, and medications administered as prescribed, while enduring sleepless nights consumed with worry of what tomorrow will bring, is the role of the caregiver. Whether a spouse, family member or friend, transitioning into or suddenly committed to assist the dying, the caregiver puts their loved one first, no questions, it’s what they do.
While navigating grief and the many emotions it triggers, the caregiver continues day in and day out to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their loved one. They become exhausted. It’s witnessed in their voice, their posture, and their face. They walk in with a tired smile, dark circled eyes, exasperation in their voice, barely holding it together they trudge on. Resources are often offered to those who need a break only to hear “no, I am ok, we are managing.” Perhaps, not wanting to be a burden to others, they decline help. Their decision respected. All the while, the potential for the hero’s crisis is predictable.
We need to do better. Many caregivers suffer their own health crisis and mortality before the one they care for. In a conversation with Kathie Ritchie in October of 2021, Dr. Pauline Boss shares an alarming statistic; 40% of Alzheimer caregivers (55 – 64 demographic) die from stress related causes before their loved one. In the 70 – 80 age demographics, 63% died at a higher rate compared to other non-caregivers in their same age group. We can conclude from the statistics provided by Dr. Pauline Boss in her interview, there is a crisis for caregiving heroes, and it can be fatal.
Finding balance for you; the caregiver, is fundamental. Comfortable with these conversations as an end of life doula, the journey with my clients begins by establishing a core group of people to walk with you on this journey. A group of people that surround you with their unique strengths. We can embrace and capitalize on these gifts. Our goal is, to create and maintain balance. Carrying the load alone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week is a lot of time and can be insurmountable for an individual caregiver. Your chosen circle can surround you and ease the burden both physically and mentally, to bring balance and relieve stress.
As I write this blog, dear family friends are navigating Covid 19. Their circle, or tribe as we are known, was established a long time ago during an earlier health crisis with each person assigned a role. When Covid 19 made its appearance, calls were made, and the tribe stepped in to support this journey. The circle shares responsibilities and provides emotional support, bringing balance and relieving stress for our friends.
Often these conversations happen when a life limiting diagnosis is confirmed. Let’s start change, establish our circle and avoid a caregiver health crisis, now, when we are healthy. This all begins with a conversation. My hope is to spur you to have a serious conversation with yourself, leading to a conversation with those you want to invite into your Circle. Let’s avoid a caregiver health crisis so you can be there for your loved ones. Who’s walking you home? I welcome the conversation to help you with this journey. In 2022, this is a gift to give yourself. Strength, Love and Light – Julie
Interviews with dr. boss. Ambiguous Loss. (2021, October 27) Retrieved January 9, 2022, from https://www.ambiguousloss.com/resourcers/interviews