The caregiver’s curse

Mom is recovering in an amazing fashion from her major surgery that was just performed yesterday. The surgeon came to check on her today and sketch out a plan for the next few days.

Mom took the opportunity to tell the doctor about how she had cared for Dad at home for 2-3 years until his dementia became too much for her to handle at home. She had been healthy for 74 years, and then all hell broke loose.

The surgeon nodded sympathetically. “I have heard so many stories just like yours. There’s a certain level of adrenaline that kicks in to handle crisis situations, and surprisingly, that level can stay quite high for long periods of time. Then once the loved one dies, the caregiver completely loses that adrenaline boost, and that’s when sickness can kick in.”

It seems particularly cruel that the reward for doing something so selfless and loving as caring for a loved one with a disease can end up causing you to get sick, but that is reality.

Even doctors are admitting that caregiving can be hazardous to your health, but what real alternatives are there? Residential facilities are extremely expensive in the U.S. and out of the financial reach of many families.

I’m an only child. My father passed away a year ago. My mother is now sick. I quit my job to take care of her. Sure, I could put her in a facility and her life savings would be gone in a few months. Home nursing options are limited to a couple of visits per week in the small, rural town Mom lives in. I live in a big, expensive city. There are no easy options here.

We must do better for our elderly, and their families. We need more support, emotionally, physically and yes, financially.

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