The Hidden Costs of Being a Caregiver
News Flash: No one is perfect. If you are a caregiver, you are not a bad person for feeling angry that your life did not turn out the way you wanted. Your married couple friends are traveling the world and going to parties. Your friends are living the life you and your disabled spouse envisioned you would be doing in retirement. But, the reality is, you are now a caregiver for your disabled spouse.
Yes, you are happy you can care for your spouse. After all, you meant those vows you said on your wedding day “in sickness and in health.” You love helping your spouse enjoy the life he or she has. You spend your moments making sure your disabled spouse does not want for anything. His or her happiness is your goal.
But, you are human. You sometimes have feelings of loneliness and isolation. You feel frustrated when your disabled spouse is upset or doesn’t seem to want to be around you. You are angry that your dreams for retirement have been destroyed. Mostly, you are tired.
So many caregivers beat themselves up for having these very real, human feelings. They may feel guilty and like they are a bad spouse. If this is you, STOP! It’s OK to have these feelings. These feelings have nothing to do with the love you have for your spouse. Caregiving is hard.
One of the worst parts is that other people, friends and family included, just don’t understand your situation. I can’t tell you the number of well meaning people who would say to my mom “Why don’t you just put him in a nursing home so you can live your life?” Granted, some people are not equipped to be caregivers. My dad is blessed that my mom is.
You see, caregiving is a full-time job but it’s also a job that never ends. However, that does not mean that you, as a caregiver, are not entitled to so time alone. You are also allowed, yes, I said allowed, to be afraid, sad, angry or frustrated. No one has the right to judge you for these feelings. So don’t feel guilty for having these feelings. Everyone has bad days.
But, try to focus on the positives -knowing that you are providing love and support to your disabled spouse. You are doing the best you can and you are a hero. So, have a cry, yell if you need to do so. Then, pat yourself on the back, remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing for your spouse. Remind yourself of the love you have for each other. Find support, get some rest and ask for help. Know that you are appreciated – I am here to officially say, I appreciate, and admire all of you caregivers out there.