Friday, February 24, 2012

Challenges of Family Caregiving

A piece from the Chicago News Cooperative ran in yesterday's New York Times that touched upon the challenges faced by family caregivers. In this case, when a daughter brings her aging mother into her home, providing care is rewarding but difficult.

A few weeks after taking her mother home, Ms. Goode leaned in close and asked, “Mom, do you want to die?”

“No,” Ms. Livermore said.

“Why?” Ms. Goode said.

“Because I like life,” her mother replied.

“Why? Because of potato chips, Elmer, chocolate drinks?” Ms. Goode said, referring to her mother’s favorite foods and her favorite caregiving aide, Elmer. “Any other reasons?” she pressed.

“That’s enough,” Ms. Livermore said.

And so Ms. Goode carried on. She followed the seven-times-a-day medication schedule, changed the diapers and administered the herbs, supplements and ointments. She juggled the five part-time health aides who came around the clock. She paid up to $1,000 a month to cover the costs that Social Security did not, putting her more than $8,000 in debt.
Ms. Livermore’s doctors say Ms. Goode’s care extended her mother’s life by a year or more.

But it cost her more than money and time. Ms. Goode had to put aside her own life. She tried not to focus on what she had lost or given up while caring for her mother: sleep, making music, taking her motorboat out on the lake, as well as a significant portion of her work as a psychotherapist and addictions counselor. Plus, after more than 13 years together, she and her partner split up, their relationship strained by the stress of Ms. Goode’s caregiver role.

Even her own health was put on the back burner. Ms. Goode was becoming sick more often and never felt rested. “I had stress exhaustion, I was overwhelmed,” she said.

HFA has resources for family caregivers. Be sure to listen to this free 20-minute program, Family Caregiving: Coping with the Challenges.