Burned Out Socialite?
I see a number of posts on social media which ask people to be patient with caregivers—and rightly so; the caregiving job is isolating and wearisome. There are many diseases which necessitate the presence of a full-time caregiver, and the role lays claim to the caregiver’s time and energy. Frequently the caregiver’s own needs are neglected because they are so caught up in taking care of the person who is ill.
But what do we do for caregivers who desperately need help but refuse to accept it when it’s available? Extended family, church members or friends may offer to help, but there’s not much they can do if the caregiver puts up a road block.
I knew of a person with dementia, and that person’s healthy spouse provided their care. When someone would come to help, the healthy spouse would set about entertaining the helper as if they were a guest, offering to prepare coffee or tea and serving light snacks while making polite conversation. If the patient required anything, the spouse would jump up and tend to it, telling the person who had come to help to just stay seated, it was no trouble, be right back, etc.
Everything was fine until the healthy spouse literally burned out—that’s when the complaining started. The healthy spouse would angrily berate anyone within earshot that it was just too much for one person, lamenting the fact that they didn’t know how they were bearing the burden alone.
The truth is no one can wear the caregiver mantle 24/7 and not feel its effects. Five months into my personal caregiving journey, my husband arranged for us to go to the beach for several days. We left a backup phone number for the nursing home and headed to the coast. I came back feeling rested and eager to resume my responsibilities with a refreshed sense that I could do the job.
Caregivers: let people help you. When they come to your house to help, they don’t expect you to entertain them. They expect to provide you some relief. If you don’t take breaks along the way, both you and the one you’re caring for will pay the price. You want to be the best caregiver you can, but that’s not possible if you’re run down and burned out.