Surviving as a caregiver is of particular concern while caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Caring for a brain-impaired loved one who cannot converse meaningfully can become so stressful that many caregivers will not finish caregiving.
Since all of us will either BE a caregiver (if we’re not one currently) or NEED a caregiver, our lives will change for the better IF we realize that
- some of us will always provide care.
- caregiver stress and burnout are normal but not always necessary.
- we must care for ourselves in order to care for others.
Caregiver survival is a recurrent theme because a significant number of caregivers over the age of sixty-five die before they’re finished caregiving.
Once a Caregiver Always a Caregiver
After my father died of Alzheimer’s, I learned: Once a caregiver, always a caregiver.
In our case, my husband and I continued caring for geriatric cats. Although, reading about cats may seem out-of-place for a surviving caregiving article, many Americans love their animals and care for them like family members … sometimes better! You can learn a lot by observing how pet owners care for their non-human family members; so, please indulge me as I overview my husbands and my experience caring for geriatric cats following my father’s death.
A 20-year-old black and white kitty with kidney failure who survived a record four more years only because we meticulously gave her subcutaneous injections according to the doctor’s orders. Imagine injecting your cat with a needle. I think it hurt us more to give her those shots. We continued until her will to live was exceeded by her organs’ inability to function any longer.
Our spoiled 18-year-old black kitty who contracted sudden liver failure and despite intensive care passed on. (Yes, I admit now, ICU went over the top!) If you want to laugh heartily, read their stories here: Two of our Cats – 126 Years of Joy
Our 11-year-old who destroyed our home (drapes, furniture, including my antique grand piano), who succumbed to stomach cancer shortly before my father died.
Life seemed to be filled with black and white kitties until a 5-year-old orange tabby came into our lives.
Diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and a broken pelvis that healed incorrectly, Narenge (means orange in Armenian) was recently diagnosed with lymphoma of the spleen after his liver values were out of normal range. After much thought, phone calls, and online research, we elected to preserve his quality of life instead of giving him chemo. Besides the poorer condition of his teeth make it painful for him to eat.
It seems that once some of us get “infected” with the caregiving bug we can’t stop.
Whether we care for other family members, friends, volunteer at a local adult day care center, assisted living community, skilled nursing care, or animal shelter, the thread of caregiving guides our lives.
Just in case you’re wondering if I’ve turned my back on you and joined the animal caregiving kingdom, I assure you, most of my time each day is spent helping caregivers and their human loved ones with dementia. (But just an added point, did you know cats can get dementia, too?)
Once a caregiver, always a caregiver–assuming you’re the type of person who seems to always find yourself where care is needed.
Caregiving comes with many stressful challenges amidst the rewards. In the next (second) Surviving Caregiving article, read how to recognize and overcome the stress of caregiving (for humans). Remember, stress and burnout are normal but not necessary.
In the third installment, we’ll explore
Self-Care for Other Care.
Brenda Avadian, MA
Caregiver & Editor, TheCaregiversVoice.com
Additional Informative resources –
This was a fast-paced 30-minute interview where we discussed
- how my husband and I became caregivers–not recommended!
- whether or not we were in denial, initially.
- why my siblings and I were unable to work together.
- getting a power of attorney.
- the support services we used.
- the back story of the title “Where’s my shoes?”
- the key to our survival–it was close!
- we found the JOY–Hint: It’s in the little things!
- 3 key TIPS for Caregivers