Getting Help When Caregiver Burnout Hits
The wedding day comes and goes in a blink of an eye. Now the work of building a life together begins. The children come (or not) and times flies though the toddler phase and then the school years. The mortar boards and tassels are flung in the air and then the song repeats itself. Each year passes faster and faster.
We are aging slowly every day. As time creeps up on us we give it a shrug and adjust. The stuff on the top shelf now holds less interest as it becomes harder to get it down. We see the grey creep into our partners hair. The soft wrinkles around their eyes, the smile lines.
Wedding vows are to stick together through richer and poorer, for better or worse and in sickness and health -until death do us part. Until those times come, it’s hard to predict what to expect of yourself, or your spouse.
When you become a caregiver for your spouse things change. The blushing young bride needs help in the shower. The strong-just-returned-from-service groom needs help getting dressed. Your marriage vows ring in your ears-in sickness and in health. Are you nurse or spouse? It can be physically hard to provide care for another person. It is definitely emotionally hard. It is a task we do with love in our hearts but there are times that it is exhausting.
Caregiver burnout, is the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that changes the relationship from positive and caring to negative and uncaring. Loss of sleep, irritability, change in appetite or weight and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy are all signs of caregiver burnout.
Caregivers need to allow others to help. Hiring help is an option for some but not for all. A friend, or family member may step in to give you a bit of time to take care of your own needs. Letting go of the need to be in charge of everything all of the time can be hard. You are not betraying your wedding vows by asking for, and accepting help in providing care.
As some illnesses progress, such as dementia, MS, ALS or after a stroke it may become impossible for you to be able to provide all of the care needed by your spouse. The 5-foot 2-inch 100 pound wife will have trouble transferring her 6 foot 180 pound husband from the bed to a wheelchair. A husband cannot stay awake all day and night to care for his wife with dementia who is set on “going home” right out the door. Your role has changed.
A sudden onset illness-a heart attack or stroke can change your role at a stunning speed. Your spouse is no longer able to return home-now what? Where does that leave you? Your vows-for better or worse, in sickness and health drum beat in your head.
When the love of your life requires care beyond what you are able to provide, your role becomes one of being their advocate and champion. It becomes your job to educate staff on what your spouse has always enjoyed and what they have disliked. Make sure they are being cared for in a way that reflects who they are as an individual.
To love, honor and cherish, in sickness and in health, until death do us part also means loving your spouse enough to let go and get the help you both need.