To be sure the people who are caregivers for an elderly person are Superheroes!  They give fully of themselves day in and day out to meet the needs of somebody who is slipping away.

The needs might be medical, requiring that the caregiver learn new skills in order to help the one they love; things that in a nursing facility might be done by the trained nursing and care staff.

Or perhaps there is a significant mobility issue and your loved one is quite dependent on the caregiver for moving around throughout the day; requiring increasingly higher levels of physical assistance to be able to complete the activities that we take for granted (standing up from a chair, reaching down to put on our shoes, scratching our shin, and even more personal things….).

Still yet, it could be that your loved one is failing mentally; to the point where you cannot leave them alone at all.  They need you to protect them and guard them from hurting themselves; from dangers that they don’t even recognize any longer.

And in many cases, it is an ‘all of the above’ proposition!

My own father was suffering not only from memory loss, but also changes in behavior and mobility issues.  He was falling frequently, had broken several pieces of furniture and had even ended up at the hospital on several occasions due to injury (though he has not broken any bones yet!).  Not only was my mother unable, at almost 80 years old, to help my father up off the floor, she frequently had to deal with my father blaming her in some way for what had happened (falsely of course).

My superhero mother had to sometimes help my father get up from a chair, help him get dressed, assist him with his showers, drive him to all of his appointments, put him to bed at night, and on and on.  Things that would even tire this, soon to be, 50-year-old!

So how does the superhero recognize that they need to take off the cape for a while?  Some signs of ‘caregiver fatigue’ are:  Sleeping problems (too much or too little); Change in eating habits (weight gain or loss); Feeling tired or without energy most of the time; Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy; Easily irritated, angered or saddened; Frequent headaches, stomach aches, or other physical problems. (Source:  National Women’s Health Information Center, 1/2006)

Since placing my father in a facility after Christmas, my mother reports that she is sleeping through the night again, has lost weight (in a good way) and to the appearance of me and my siblings, has lost some of the anxiety and irritation that she was experiencing while having my father at home.

Mom continues to be my superhero in that she visits my father twice daily and picks him up to take him to church on Sundays.  He is close enough to home (half a block away) that we can bring him to the house for visits allowing him to stay connected to his home life.

To be sure the other caregivers in my father’s life are superheroes too!  My brother who lives closer than I do, has worked tirelessly to make sure all of the legal documents and insurance things are taken care of and my sister (thank you, sis!!) went with Mom to the tax guy the other day (ugh).

We all have our roles to play and have our moments of ‘hero-ness’ (my word), but we all need to recognize when it is time to take off the cape for a while and step back to rejuvenate our superpowers for the ongoing battle ahead!

On the journey with you…….Kathy


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