Frustrated. Impatient. Exhausted.
These are the only words I can think of to describe how I felt while I was trying to balance full time school, a full time job, a startup business, and my 94 year old neighbor.
The first time I met my neighbor, she had woken me up out of a dead sleep in between my jobs. When I answered the door, she stood there in a night gown, asking if I could come look at her thermostat. I figured I would do my good deed for the day and move on.
I was beyond wrong.
Adjusting the thermostat turned in to running to the store, making her meals, fixing things around her apartment, and mediating between banks and billing companies.
Spending time with her, I learned all of her family had already passed away. She was alone, stuck in an apartment with no one to depend on but herself – and me. She became my "adopted grandma." I spent entire days sitting in her apartment letting her tell me stories about her life and experiences. The closer we became, the more she relied on me to take care of her basic day to day needs- and I always said yes.
Being someone's personal caregiver is an immense responsibility. Our needs become secondary to someone else's. Why would we want to do this? Why would we want to jeopardize the life we are building for ourselves for that of another?
To me the answer is really easy- because they're a person. They are a living, breathing human-being with a soul. They have thoughts and feelings, and just because life has taken its toll, it doesn't negate that. We only have each other to rely on, and without that- we have nothing.
So how do we manage? How do we get by balancing the two?
This is what has helped me:
Take a time-out and breathe. Step out of the room. Take a breath (or three). Frustration mixed with exhaustion is a toxic mix that can get the best of us, and cause us to act irrationally if we don't manage it. The few minutes to yourself can help you put things back into perspective.
Ask for help. There are organizations and resources that have more experience than you working in and with these situations. It's ok to consult them and ask for advice. They are often able to recommend services (paid AND
free) that may allow you to lighten your work load.
If you find yourself trying to balance life and caring for a loved one, I applaud you. It can be a challenging, yet rewarding experience. By keeping in mind why you are in the situation you are in, and by letting love motivate your attitudes and actions, it will make finding the balance between the two a more enjoyable chapter in your life.
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