Caregiver: What Does It Really Mean?

Marie

Caregiver: What Does It Really Mean?

Marie

A family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person.

There are times that I feel guilty calling myself a caregiver.  I read the stories of what people go through and I think "damn, I have it lucky".  Gramma is able to get up and get around, she's able to cook, she's able to function.  I don't have to clean her up, I don't have to deal with an 87-year-old with the mentality of a child (that might be going too far, but I'm sure you get what I mean).  I really think I'm lucky.

I didn't feel I was a caregiver until the stroke and now that she is recovering (have recovered? do you ever fully recover?) and now that she is nearing where she was before I'm not so sure I'm a caregiver any longer.  I'm not saying that she's 100% better, she just doesn't need my help as much as others do.  There are still little things, like yesterday she mistook the bottle of sun block for the bottle of tartar sauce.  She only realized she had done it when she went to taste the tartar sauce.

When she broke down crying that she had ruined it I have a little moment of panic because she's crying.  My grandmother doesn't break down and cry but since the stroke, she does it more often.  She has issues with her memory in recalling words and she gets so mad and frustrated and in those times the only thing I can think to do is to hold her and tell her it's okay.  No, she didn't ruin lunch.  It was just bread, some lettuce, and fish.  Bread and lettuce can be thrown away and the fish can be washed off.  Think of it this way, at least your tongue won't get sunburned.

I honestly wasn't sure if she wanted to laugh, cry, or hit me with that last comment.  Later she commented that we'll probably laugh about it but I'm not sure I can get the image of her crying, out of my mind.

So what is a caregiver?  Are there levels of caregivers?  Am I a part-time caregiver because I don't need to hold her hand?  Does it make a difference?

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Courtney

Anyone who takes the time to be there for another person is a caregiver. Whether all you do is make them a sandwich, or help them bathe and use the bathroom... No one should ever compare their lives to another. The point is that the elderly are such a vulnerable population.... and many people so not take care of them or respect them. What WE do is hard work, but it is so rewarding. Those days where they are having a 'good' day feel fantastic. When they are like themselves again you just want to celebrate! No matter what you do for your grandma, be proud of yourself, because i guarantee she loves just having you around.

jan

You completely hit the nail on the head with levels of caregiving. Denise Brown has written extensively here about the six stages of caregiving, and it could really help you. I found caregiving to be a complete roller-coaster of never knowing what to expect, constant changes and surprises. Just when you thought you had it figured out, something new would come up. It is just like raising a child, but without the hope that the child will eventually grow out of it and live independently.\r\nA caregiver is a caregiver whether part-time or full-time. All of us here are in different aspects of it, but all of us are the same because we've agree to try.

Denise

Hi Marie! I apologize I didn't get a chance to share a comment yesterday.\r\n\r\nI'm so glad you wrote about this! I think: It doesn't make a difference.\r\n\r\nI think we tend to minimize our presence and focus solely on the tasks (which are critically important but not the only criteria). Our presence, the fact that we stay to provide the best quality of life possible, makes us caregivers. And, presence isn't about our location but about our heart. We remain present regardless of how far we live from our caree when we do all that we can to, again, try to provide the best quality of life possible.\r\n\r\nMaybe we need to use another word rather than \"caregiver\"? \r\n\r\nThanks so much for you post, Marie.

Denise

Hi Kristy, Thanks so much for reaching out. Just a few thoughts in addition to what Marie suggested: Talk with your dad's doctor about hospice care. If his doctor believes your dad has a prognosis of 6 months or less, your dad could quality for hospice care. With hospice, you have more help and support for both of you. If his doctor won't help, then check with local hospice organizations in your area and criteria for qualifying and other doctors who may help.\r\n\r\nEach state has an Area Aging on Aging (which Marie mentioned). You also can check with the AAA about programs which can give you a break. Search for your local AAA here; http://www.eldercare.gov.\r\n\r\nAnd, please coming here! We have three daily chats and we'd love for you to join us as you can. Sometimes, just sharing honestly can feel like a break. Our chat hours are: \r\n\r\n--9 a.m. ET (8 a.m. CT, 7 a.m. MT, 6 a.m. PT), \r\n--2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. CT, Noon MT, 11 a.m PT), and \r\n--9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT, 7 p.m. MT, 6 p.m. PT).\r\n\r\nYou also can start blogging here, if you'd like. I've found blogging to be a great coping strategy and a break all rolled up into one. :)

Marie

Hi Kristy. \r\n\r\nThe only thing I can suggest is to talk to your friends and family to see if they can help in giving you a break. The other option that I can think of is to find out if your state has a Division for the Elderly and find out what they can offer to help you out. Where I am they offer credits that allow someone to come in and help out, in our case the worker comes in and cleans for a couple of hours. I know it doesn't sound like much, but that's 2 hours that I can rest and just be me and a granddaughter and not a caregiver. \r\n\r\nAlso, contact your senior centers and see if they have suggestions. The people that are hired by these groups are background checked, sometimes even requiring transcripts to get an idea of the people that they are hiring. \r\n\r\nThere are also a lot of resources here on the site that may help as well. I hope this helps you!