Part of the organization system that is recommended for most senior citizens is the active presence of a close family member or friend who takes the role of “caregiver”. The job description of a caregiver is pretty wide and can include anything from buying your groceries, to making sure your Medicare paperwork is all correct, to doing your taxes to cleaning your apartment. In fact, there really is no list of jobs that makes a resume of a good caregiver except for the one job of doing “anything you need her to do.”
But another quirk of the job of care giving is that it is an unpaid position. Your caregiver does what she does for one reason – to take care of you. If you can step back and look at it objectively, that’s a pretty amazing job especially because as old age advances, the demands on the caregiver can get more and more stressful.
While it’s not something we talk about openly, senior citizens have a bit of reputation of being demanding. Part of it are the many challenges we face just at a time when we are least able to handle them. Medical problems, fatigue and depression can be so debilitating that we are less able to tackle the issues of senior life just when they really need to be tackled.
The most common caregiver is probably the one of your children who happens to live closest to you. And since this important person is also a family member, its easy to “unload” on them when you don’t feel good, when you are confused, when you feel angry (which is a lot) or when you need something done. It’s easy to get impatient with them when something needs attention and they are not there to attend to it. And it’s easy to want that child to stay with you and never go home because you get lonely and if they were there all the time, then you wouldn’t have to worry about something coming up that needs attention because your caregiver can be there all the time.
We need to have a reality check with each other about who your caregiver can be to you and what they cannot be. Your caregiver is not (a) a live in maid, (b) your personal slave, (c) responsible for everything wrong in your life or (d) a person who lives only for your needs. If this wonderful person is one of your children, he or she may have a family and a job. You cannot expect them to drop those things to attend to you exclusively. By being a little realistic, you are on the right track to having the right relationship with your caregiver.
If you looked at the role of caregiver through the eyes of that person who cares for you, they have a lot of stress in their lives. Your caregiver knows you want her to stay with you all the time. She knows you are angry about growing older and about your limited resources and about things that don’t work the way they should. The weight of your impatience and anger weighs heavily on her.
There is a genuine problem known as caregiver burn out. People who follow such things have documented many cases where a caregiver has a nervous breakdown trying to keep up with the demands of an aging parent and their own families and jobs. You don’t want that to happen to your caregiver. So let this discussion be a word of good counsel that its time for you to cut your caregiver some slack.