Caregiving Can Wear You Down #RealTalkAboutCare

My mother, father, & I in watercolor filter

Since Thanksgiving weekend, I’ve been sick with an upper respiratory infection (URI). As an asthmatic, URI’s tend to go to my lungs. My son, too, is sick and in bed (no way for a teenager to spend the weekend). URI’s are highly contagious. We tend to share far too many illnesses in my family. Even our labradoodle Thumper is taking antibiotics for a cough.

Until my mother had a stroke November 2015, she was my father’s caregiver. Since then, caregiving has become my responsibility, as now both my parents have dementia. My father has alcohol-related dementia (alcohol is a neurotoxin). My mother now has vascular dementia with behaviorial complications (brain damage can do that) and she cannot speak.

As I live with bipolar disorder while parenting an adolescent migraineur, I couldn’t care for two aging parents with dementia without help, for doing so would likely put me in a psychiatric hospital. Finding long-term care that could address their needs proved challenging. For now, we’ve had to separate them – heartbreaking, but necessary for their health. To pay for their care, we had to sell their beloved beach house, for memory care is extremely expensive.

If my mother had more caregiving support before her stroke, perhaps she may not have had a stroke, perhaps she would have received more timely medical care. My mother was exhausted, stressed, and taking antidepressants (caregivers are at risk of depression). My father just thought that my mother was napping. His dementia interfered with his ability to respond to her stroke appropriately.

My mother, a caregiver, needed help, needed respite, needed care herself. My sister and I had been talking to our mother about downsizing and moving closer to my sister. But, my father fought the idea of moving out of their beach house, leaving our mother essentially trapped.

Thankfully they are doing well now, given their current life circumstances. Take care of yourself. Take care of your brain. Take care of your heart. Good health is a blessing.

Caregiving Resources: AARP Caregiver Resource Center

37 thoughts on “Caregiving Can Wear You Down #RealTalkAboutCare

  1. Paladin December 14, 2016 / 7:29 am

    The photo with your parents before Thanksgiving is a classic, Kitt. You are that woman. Your posts (The Adventures of Bipolar Kitt O’malley) the last two years are very enlightening. There is a lot of positive valence. It is that simple. You understood Einstein’s inverse E algorithm. There is a lot of audacity with your IOOV post. Have enjoyed your modesty and most of all you seem very respectful with your feedback.

    Think you are already in your “New Normal”. It just kind of happened autonomously. For most of us “Family is everything, and almost everything is taking care of family”. You have earned a few stripes of recognition for caregiving. Godspeed, Kitt O’Malley.

    Hoping your immune systems will activate to provide you and your family good health for the Xmas holidays.

    Xo,Xo, Paladin.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bradley December 12, 2016 / 11:18 am

    Your strength and unconditional love are an inspiration. Here’s to hoping you get well soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. saywhatumean2say December 12, 2016 / 8:50 am

    As a PAID caregiver for many years…you get caught up in the drama…and you CARE. I feel sympathy for you and also hope that you seem to so understand the pitfalls of caring. LIFE SUCKS but whatcha gonna do? It is what it is and caring for yourself should be part of that process. ~~dru~~

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kitt O'Malley December 12, 2016 / 4:47 pm

      Thank you, dru, for your comment and for your work as a paid caregiver. Paid or not, caregiving is important work that goes under appreciated and exhausting work that remains underpaid or unpaid, as is the case for many family caregivers.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. vanbytheriver December 12, 2016 / 4:36 am

    Your final paragraph, Kitt, such wise and important advice from one who has been through so much. We understand and feel your pain. Wishing you the best of health as you move forward through it all. Hoping you will be able to take your own advice. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  5. 2angelsandablackdog December 11, 2016 / 8:43 pm

    My mum was the main carer for my dad. Carers can often go downhill first according to Australian research. Terrible time for you all.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. LydiaA1614 December 11, 2016 / 8:14 pm

    I can relate to pretty well everything you are going through except the having a son part. I was acaregiver for my Dad for four years before he passed away. He had COPD, dementia, and was just generally weak. We were just about to try and talk to him again about getting into a care facility when he had his final bout of pneumonia and never came out of the hospital.

    I, too, have bipolar, asthma and almost continual URI’s during the fall and winter months. My Hubby drivings an accessibility bus so brings home a lot of bugs and my frail immune system can’t put up a fight.

    I hope you and your son (and dog) feel better soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. dyane December 11, 2016 / 5:45 pm

    I hope your URI gets the heck away as soon as possible, my dear.
    You’ve been dealing with that horrid-sounding bug a long time…I also hope that your son recovers quickly. And poor Thumper – the O’Malley home has been hit hard.

    I haven’t been a caregiver, and I can’t imagine the stress of what you’ve been dealing with. It seems enormously heartbreaking and difficult. You’ve been clearheaded all along, not to mention thoughtful, loving and pragmatic. I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again: your parents are extremely fortunate to have you as their daughter.

    Love you, Kitt!

    p.s. If I have another dream in which you’re the star, I’ll try to remember more details! I rarely have vivid dreams so it was a joy to “be” with you in the last one, and I do recall you sold me an impressive brownie. XoXo

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D. December 11, 2016 / 3:25 pm

    Amen! I have been a caregiver too. It is beyond exhausting. My next book…someday, will be about dementia. I applaud you for making the tough decisions to do what is best for all. It’s heartbreaking. I am now two years past the caregiving stage for my mother-in-law, who lived with my husband and I for eleven years, gradually becoming more demented, until we had to place her in a nursing home. She died four months later. While caring for her was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, now that I have some distance from it I can honestly say it is also one of the most important and meaningful experiences of my life. My father had Alzheimer’s, and, while he died of a heart attack before I had to become too involved in his care, it was beyond painful to see him turn into a person I did not recognize. I wish you nothing but the best, Kitt, as you navigate this really difficult stage.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Mark Lanesbury December 11, 2016 / 2:34 pm

    And blessings to you and family also kind lady, may all your health improve and glow like the season 😀

    Liked by 3 people

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