I Am a Stressed-Out Family Caregiver: Meet Lauren


I Am a Stressed-Out Family Caregiver: Meet Lauren

woman_stress_420-420x0(Editor’s Note: We’re putting the spotlight on the stress involved in caring for a family member or friend and we’re sharing the stories of stressed-out family caregivers. Today, we introduce you to Lauren; you can connect with Lauren on her profile page: @laurencleckley. Our questions and her answers follow.)

Caregiving.com: Tell us about your stress. Tell us about your stress.
Lauren: I am a caregiver for my grandmother who has certain recurring and fairly complex health concerns, and I work full time in a complex and demanding corporate job.

Caregiving.com: What have you tried to minimize the stress? Tell us about agencies you’ve called, organizations you’ve contacted, individuals you’ve reached out to for help.
Lauren: To minimize the stress I have contacted several local agencies in my area that offer senior companion services. I have engaged on certain instances in home companions for brief periods to assist with socialization and outings. I have also reached out to certain family members who have sporadically helped with taking my caree to medical appointments, and at one time, I had the help of a friend who visited with my grandmother a few days a week to take her out for car rides/shopping during the weekdays, when I am at work.

Caregiving.com: How has your stress affected your family, your career and your health?
Lauren: I feel like the stress has affected my health the most. I am frequently struggling with feeling burnt out mentally due to the need to juggle caregiving and work. While I think I manage it well, I feel tired, run down and constantly force myself to be an effective caregiver, to deal with my work and to manage the frequent health ups and downs and (seemingly infinite) doctors appointments required by my caree. I also don't do a good job of exercising/personal stress management and am the most overweight ever in my life. I feel like I eat from stress because I am frequently either nervous about work, nervous about my caree and her health, or both. While on the outside I still look okay, have a seemingly good career, I feel stuck in my career and life. I don't enjoy my job, yet fear changing jobs because I fear that if my grandmother gets sick or if I require time off for caregiving, a new company may not accommodate it. Within the last 3.5 years, I changed jobs and was fairly lucky that, at least in my current role, they are accommodating of my need for time away to handle the various appointments. No one is bothered if I come in late or leave early; granted, I make up the time by working at home to ensure all my work is done. However, I am constantly unhappy at work, stressed at home, stressed at work and in a vicious cycle of stress, overeating, dieting, and worry, yet juggling each of these just enough to stay in motion.

Caregiving.com: What would help you most right now?
Lauren: A year off from work. I would like to take a year off to focus on myself, my caree and create a new strategy for my career and caregiving that will maximize balance, yet allow me to be happier, healthier and still an effective caregiver. I want to be the caregiver, yet just need time to get myself together. I want to get off the rollercoaster ride and straighten myself and situation out, then restart with greater balance.

Also what could help now would be one intelligent, reliable and effective companion for my grandmother that I could truly trust and rely on. I am not happy with the caliber and quality of caregivers offered by the agencies. Perhaps I am too picky, yet I don't think I am. If I had one person to assist that I felt was high quality and of a decent caliber (i.e. if I could clone myself) to take care of my grandmother, go on appointments and ask the level of questions that I do, challenge the doctors when appropriate and assist me in caregiving, this would be the most help now.

Caregiving.com: What resource has been most helpful to you?
Lauren: The one time I had a friend who I fully trusted, assisting twice weekly with the care was the most helpful. Unfortunately, she is no longer available.

Caregiving.com: What’s it like to live with caregiving stress?
Lauren: It is horrible. If you are an intelligent and thinking/proactively involved caregiver, the stress is very troubling due to the incessant nature of the caregiving job. Caregiving is a job. You try to be strategic and do the best you can, yet it is quite stressful to have to manage your own life while also helping someone else go through the medical process, the health ups and downs, the doctors, the multiple appointments, the good and bad news, the health decisions. Caregiving stress is complex also because no one really gets it unless they have done it, too. People look at me and say, Oh, she has a nice job, nice house, a car and the grandmother looks great. What they don't know is that the caregiver had to go through a lot to maintain things and keep it all together.

Caregiving.com: Briefly tell us about your caregiving situation.
Lauren: I am a single professional caring for my grandmother who shares a home with me. I work full time and provide care to my grandmother by way of meals, housekeeping, medical appointments (transport and participation) and care for all health issues that arise. I am the primary caregiver and income earner. I constantly juggle work and caregiving. While I would not have it any other way, and love my caree dearly, it is hard work. I am grateful to God for my blessings. However, I do need to make some major tweaks if I am going to survive my life and the caregiving process over the long term.

(We’d love to feature your story–just complete our “I Am a Stressed-Out Family Caregiver” questionnaire. And, be sure to tell us how stressed you are in our simple survey.)

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