Caregiving can often feel like herding cats. Just when you think you have figured something out another challenge appears, or a dependable solution doesn’t work anymore. Caregiving is frustrating and exhausting. This is a photo of our son with our two jumbo kittens. These babies are just seven months old, yet they are already bigger than most full-grown cats. They are smart, full of personality and know what they want. Not unlike my mother.
My mom lived with a variety of ailments related to congestive heart failure. Vascular dementia was one of them. Her heart wasn’t pumping well enough and her brain function was affected. I never knew each day what I would have to deal with. Sometimes she didn’t know me, other times she was sure there were two of me. She often complained about the “other Breeda” to me. The Other Breeda would make her take mind-altering drugs, like Ibuprofen or wouldn’t let her have a cup of coffee at midnight. At first, these rants would upset and frustrate me. Then I learned to understand what was happening and I played along. I actually began to find the humor and would ask, “Really Mom? Tell me what Breeda did today”. That way I could get the scoop and find out what was bothering her.
Mental Agility Needed
I could do that on days when I was feeling good. If I had a good night’s sleep and a few minutes with a cup of tea in the morning I was in a much better mood. I could deal with erratic behavior. But on those days when I was tired, cranky and not able to handle myself, much less my frail mother – it didn’t go so well. I learned a basic lesson. If I wanted to be successful, I needed to have the mental agility to deal with the challenges of caregiving; the exhaustion, the frustration, and the isolation. I needed to take better care of myself.
It was hard. I felt very guilty going out to see a movie or to meet a friend for a coffee, leaving mom at home with a paid caregiver. It felt so selfish and indulgent. But mom would appreciate me more by spending time with someone else. It was good for me to get out of the house, I would be less resentful and in a better frame of mind.
Survival of the Healthiest
Caregiving is hard. Caregiving is stressful. In the best situation, it is a huge challenge. If you want to come out the other side as a healthy person who knows you did the best you were able at that moment, take care of yourself. Herding cats takes creativity, mental and physical agility and buckets of patience. Not unlike caregiving.
Take a break, BEFORE you break.
Breeda Miller helps Caregivers Carry On. As a speaker and author she is a caregiver with a voice and a message that resonates with audiences worldwide. Breeda brings humor and the power of story to create a lasting impact. Book her for your next event at BreedaMiller.com