The Stress of Being a Caregiver
Last updated: April 2023
Anytime you care for someone it’s hard. It’s hard for many reasons. Maybe it’s a time thing and now you have even more to do. Perhaps it’s a space thing and there is little space in your home and now you're sharing it with someone new. It could even be money if the person you’re caring for is unable to work. But the stress could also come because you really care and want to be sure you get it right.
Caring for family can be even mores stressful
When my daughter, Crystal, told her father and me she had cancer, the first thing we did was to invite her to come back home. Luckily, she took us up on it. I became her number one caregiver and I had to get it right. She had doctor's appointments, chemo sessions, follow-up calls, and insurance to work through. Luckily, she was able to do most of the paperwork herself and kept her appointments straight.
But, I always felt bad I didn’t help with that. I had to work but always took off to take her to her appointments. The stress from this came from being a teacher. It was important to me to be with Crystal for her appointments and treatments, but since I’m a teacher, each time I had to write lesson plans and make sure I had everything set for the substitute the next day. I also worried about the time I took off. I had to be sure to have so many sick days in my bank so when I retired I could pay for extended health care. I took a lot of days off during the time Crystal was sick. It all worked out, but it was stressful.
The extra care
Before going to work each morning, I made sure Crystal had everything she needed for the day. Every other week she was really sick and could barely get out of bed. I made sure she had fluids by her bedside, and the medications she needed. Sometimes, because I was so worried, I came home at lunchtime to check on her. It’s extremely difficult to watch your daughter suffer the way she did - and then have to work on top of it.
I also did all her laundry, changed her sheets, and made sure she had what she needed. This took a little extra time, but that didn’t add to my stress. What did bother me was wondering if I was doing enough. Was there something I could have done to make it even easier on her? It was definitely a tough time and none of us knew how it would end.
The important work of a caregiver
Being a caregiver is a really important job. When I speak to other caregivers, I always tell them to do the best they can. After all, doing our best is all we can do. But when I think back to the care I gave Crystal, I always feel as though I let her down in some way. I always feel bad about not being able to stay home during her sick weeks. It’s hard to think back on that time, but at least it all worked out and she’s well now.
When asked, the advice I give others is to keep a calendar book, have a pillow and blanket in the car for the ride home from treatment, be sure to have a plastic bag with you for any adverse effects from the chemo, and have a travel bag to take to chemo sessions. At home, change the sheets often, have lotions, mouth rinses, and easy to eat foods on hand to help with any difficulties or for added comfort. Be available as often as possible and take your loved one for walks.
To sum it up, do what you can and be there to listen. Most importantly, take care of yourself so you can be the best caregiver possible!
Wishing you health & happiness!
How do you feel about your support system?