A while ago, a woman wrote to me and asked a question. She wrote:
My mother had a massive stroke 4 years ago. She is now 91. She is right side paralyzed and cannot speak. Her prognosis is that her dementia will only get worse. My husband and I have her at home with us with caregivers. My problem is I get angry with her for not trying to do anything at all for herself. I have come to realize that maybe she cannot do anything for herself, so I need to learn to solve that problem of anger.
Secondly, I feel guilty for not taking care of her myself, but she requires 24 hour care as she is totally dependent and if I did take care of her I would have no life at all.
The third problem is the stress I feel in trying to manage the caregivers. I never wanted to be a manager and have been forced into the situation of managing 5 people who work 9-5 in our house every day. Our house is not our own.
I guess my question is how do I handle the stress of my mother dying right in front of my eyes everyday and the stress of having to manage 5 caregivers, schedules, payroll, training, quitting, hiring etc. The stress of it is causing me to feel very tired. My husband and I are 60 years old. I know there are other people going through this, but what are your hints for handling chronic/terminal illness of a close relative in your home for a long period of time. My only thought is that I am keeping her out of a nursing home and she is getting good care in our home. That is the ONLY positive thing about all of this...all the rest is negative.
Thanks for your website.
This is how I answered her:
I've come up with a few things that might make your life easier or more pleasant or less stressful. But before I get into that, I just want to say that I think you're demonstrating incredible commitment doing what you're doing instead of taking the easy way out and sending your mother to a nursing home.
Okay, here are my suggestions:
1. That you take one day completely off every week, no matter what you have to do to make that happen. Any hospice worker can tell you this: If you don't, you will eventually burn out, and that is bad for everyone.
2. Read the The One Minute Manager. It will help you with your managing task. It is available to listen to on audio if you don't have time to read it. Good stuff. Very practical, very simple.
3. Every morning re-make your commitment that you will conduct yourself in such a way that for the rest of your life you will feel proud of what you did. You're sacrificing a lot here, and you should at least get the benefit of personal pride out of it, and if you conduct yourself with that in mind, you'll be able to honestly look back on what you did and feel proud of yourself and glad you did it.
4. Meditate, even ten minutes every day. It removes some of the stress hormones (especially cortisol and lactate) from your blood, and that will give you some relief from the stress. You can learn to meditate if you don't already know how.
Let me know how it goes, okay?
Editor's note: An article in InteliHealth has some more good suggestions on this subject:
Caregivers Cope With Stress
Thank you for your reply. I printed off a copy of your suggestions and have them sitting on my dresser in my bedroom. I will give it a try. I think your website is great and maybe you can add your suggestions to me to your site. I am sure there are a lot of people out there stressing out taking care of chronically ill loved ones in their homes. Thank you again for your kind response.