By Tracy Daniel-Hardy
Since I’ve been chronicling my caregiving journey, I have learned that many friends, co-workers, and acquaintances are caring for parents like me, or for a relative or in-law. Many have tearfully confided their feelings of loneliness and expressed their discomfort in sharing their experience with those who can’t relate. Some have shared humorous tales of caring for their loved ones or expressed some struggle they are trying to resolve.
I have found that even if they talk about their caregiving journey, they do not mention their anxiety, fear and guilt. While it’s common for caregivers to experience these emotions, I understand why they do not openly discuss them. It is difficult to acknowledge the fear and worry surrounding the level and quality of care we are providing. We don’t want to admit our weaknesses and shortcomings because many of us are giving all we have and sometimes are just an inch away from falling apart.
I have these same emotions and don’t want to talk about them, either. But lately, I have been consumed with anxiety, fear and some guilt about my role as a caregiver.
I often question whether I’m taking care of my parents properly. Am I doing too much? Too little? Did I forget something? Am I expecting too much from them, or not expecting enough? Should I retire now so I can dedicate more time to their care? Did they eat enough? Did they enjoy the food I prepared or purchased?
If I ask for help, will people judge me? If I hire or accept help, will the help be critical of me or my parents?
I feel guilty if I sleep in on a Saturday and give them their medicine later than usual. I feel guilty when I am stern with them and insist that they do more than they are willing to do.
I experience severe guilt when I leave town for work or pleasure and put my husband or niece in charge of my parents’ care. Will they experience some health crisis while I am out of town?
Will my husband get tired of helping me and my parents? Am I neglecting my husband, my household or my work?
Will that medical problem I’ve been pretending I don’t have catch up with me and cause my demise? Who will take care of my parents should something happen to me before my brother can travel here?
I fear daily that I might walk into my parents’ home and see that one or both have passed away. I also worry that one of them will pass on, and the other won’t be able to call me or someone else to report it.
As you can see, the list of anxieties and fears is long. Although these emotions can be debilitating, they should not stifle the care you provide.
Here are some affirmations that have helped me:
- I am not perfect.
- It’s okay to grow tired.
- Be realistic — both about your abilities and limitations.
- Get help or accept help.
- Don’t worry about what others think about you.
- Create balance — The balance between work, caregiving, self-care and other activities and responsibilities is very important
- Conduct pulse checks — communicate openly and regularly about the challenges you face.
Even if they don’t completely eliminate the guilt, anxiety or fear, these coping techniques and affirmations help me on my caregiving journey. I hope they will aid you, too.
Dr. Tracy Daniel-Hardy is the author of “The Adventures of Butch and Ruby: Chronicles of a Caregiver” and director of technology for Gulfport School District. She may be contacted at email@example.com.