You are not alone – every caregiver experiences fear as well as sadness. Fear is natural – it comes from entering unfamiliar territory and facing an unknown future.
New things may be expected of you – you may have to manage medical care and to know when and how much to intervene for your parent’s safety. You may be wondering how to divide your time or worrying about your career. Your fear of the unknown is rational, as are concerns about your career, how you divide your time and manage financial matters.
If it seems impossible to handle all these issues well on your own, you’re right. You will give care more effectively if you are getting help from your spouse, a trusted relative, your children, a geriatric care manager, or from other professionals.
Adding competent people to your caregiving mix can help reduce your anxiety and increase the quality of life for your parent and for you. Get the support you need to help you face and overcome your fears.
“It’s really challenging to tell the truth. I went about my life thinking, ‘86 is not that old.’ Well, the truth is, it’s old. There’s a part of me that just wanted to think that my parents would be okay, but I’ve learned enough about aging to know they’re going to have more and more needs.
It’s extremely difficult to bite into that reality sandwich and say, ‘this is the last part of my parents’ life and I want to be supportive and I want them to have the best quality of life that they can have. But at this point, they make the decisions. If their poor choices lead them to a place where they can’t make good decisions, then I’ll help. But it’s time to understand that there’s a point at which you can’t do any more.’
I never knew how frightening and stressful it could be to just sit back and wait for problems rather than work to prevent them, but I’ve finally come to terms with reality. I sometimes wonder if they’re as afraid as I am, but if they have the strength to go on trying to remain independent, the least I can do is look my own fears in the face and reflect some of their courage.
One of the truths I had to acknowledge is that I will probably do exactly the same thing when I’m 86.”
“Can you tell professionals that we’re smart enough to recognize false hope and platitudes? When medical science runs of out options, we still have human methods that can help. My fears won’t stop me from doing whatever I have to do, but there are times when this burden becomes so heavy that I would give anything just to borrow someone else’s strength for few minutes.
All it would take would be a few moments of conversation about my fears, or the warmth of a hand, or a steadying touch on my arm that I can carry with me and use to feel less frightened at night when I lie awake and wonder ‘what’s next?’”
“A month ago I was a vice president of my company thoroughly enjoying my life and my climb up the corporate ladder. Then mom had a stroke and I became a caregiver.
In four short weeks I’ve become an ‘expert’ on strokes, rehab, specialists, physical therapy, the medical system, Medicare, Medicaid, long term care, nursing homes, her current and future financial needs.
For God’s sake, I’m a furniture designer! How do I know where she should live or what kind of care she should have? My nature is to accept the fear and slog through it – just put one foot in front of the other. I’m a tough city girl, but I have to tell you, I don’t feel so tough now. I won’t let her down. I mean, she needs me and I’ll be there for her, but I’m terrified.”
Pat, New York City