Posted by Lori on Friday, December 25, 2009
As a care partner it is easy to get wrapped up in the idea that you have to be perfect, a saint if you will. We are trying to be all things to all people and lest not forget those around us reminding us we are doing something most people could not or would not ever do. For this reason it is easy to get caught up in the idea that we should not experience human frustrations or emotions.
There can become a point when those frustrations can be taken too far and in those cases I urge a caregiver to reach out and seek help. This article is about trespasses that cause mostly harm to the caregiver not our loved one. Moments of shortness of patience, a harsh word or even a selfish thought that we carry deep in our soul reminding us we are not perfect.
I began my journey for sainthood long before I became a care partner. From an early age it was important for me to be the perfect daughter, the best wife and of course the most patient and loving mom. So when my mother survived her stroke and I made the decision to become her live in caregiver I had the same expectation, PERFECTION.
One might think that it would be logical to allow myself a little slack since my career had been in the mortgage industry not the medical profession and mother needed constant care because of the effects from her stroke or the fact that I had been out of my parent’s home for 26 years and moving home was a huge adjustment. But care giving leaves no time for slack, too much to learn, too much to do and too many opportunities to be less than perfect.
I care gave and care partnered my mother for 8 years and during that time and the four months since her death I am bothered by my own trespasses. The times my patience ran out and I spoke to her in a less than loving voice or when I would get busy doing things around the house and forget to make sure she was fed on time. My biggest regrets are the times I would cut her off when she was trying to tell me something. My mom was unable to speak in sentences after her stroke so we spent a lot of time figuring out what she was trying to say. She said “do do do” thinking she was saying words. During the first few months following her stroke we would spend up to 45 minutes playing 500 questions only to discover she wanted a piece of lint picked up off the floor. After a while it all became too much and I began cutting her short. I would say “okay Mom is there pain, are you hungry? Okay forget it, we’ll figure it out later, here just watch T.V.” I think of how difficult it must have been for her going from the matriarch of our family where everything she said was heard with respect to being cut short when she was just trying to make small talk. I feel angry at myself for my lack of patience. I wish that I had been able to settle into my role as a care partner as gracefully as mom was able to adjust to her role as a stroke survivor.
My trespasses as a caregiver were secrets I had carried silently deep inside fearing judgment. I am telling my secrets in the hope that other care partners and caregivers will see that they are not alone. We are humans not saints and as such we are subject to moments of stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Acknowledge your limits, ask for help and take a moment to breath. You will be a better care partner by loving yourself without judgment, guilt benefits no one so forgive your trespasses and move forward.