Why Caregivers Want to Give Up

Why Caregivers Want to Give Up

Yesterday I presented a workshop on Family Caregivers for Seniors with Dementia. The participants were health care professionals, looking for a better understanding of the caregiver’s position and perspective.

I was impressed with their openness to understanding, their desire to find ways to support caregivers in their jobs, and to relieve the caregiver burden.

For some, the information I provided was new understanding. Some hadn’t considered, for instance, why an adult daughter visited her father just once a month at his nursing home. Perhaps, I suggested, he had molested her as a child. Her attention to his needs was actually going above and beyond.  Some didn’t grasp the difference between their 9 – 5 efforts to put supports in place, and the caregiver’s 24/7 responsibility. But they listened. They were attentive. I was encouraged!

This morning I came across a blog post,”How to Unplug from Caregiving.” A possible resource? On opening it I had to shake my head. In preparation to taking time away, these were the recommended steps.

  1. Recognize you deserve a break.
  2. Plan, plan, plan
  3. Make sure they have their medication.
  4. Stock up on staples.
  5. Prepare meals ahead of time.
  6. Discuss laundry.
  7. Get them an alarm.
  8. Don’t forget the outside.
  9. Make a list and check it as often as you need to.

The plan is, unfortunately, appropriate. But it sorrows me to know that many caregivers need to prepare to this degree so they can take a few days off and hope – not trust, but hope – they won’t return to a crisis.

The truth is, such preparation is often more than a caregiver can handle. Maintaining the status quo is the best they can do.

There have been great strides in recognizing family caregivers and the impact their contribution has on their lives, their families, their jobs, and society as a whole – both positive and negative. Yes, we’re on the right track, but we have a long ways to go.

Do you know a caregiver who could use a break? Maybe you could provide the care – for a few hours, or even a few days. What a gift that would be.


When the Bough Breaks

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  • Patricia Anne Elford

    I’m wondering whether some of the preparations for the much-needed temporary escape could themselves be done by a helper.

    I’m only a part-time caregiver for my husband, who is on oxygen 24/7 and has a colourful array of medications prescribed for other reasons, such as his heart, some of which must NOT be missed or delayed. For us to go somewhere and have our house & cat looked after in our absence becomes a big production now. I’m making oxygen charts for the places we’re to stay over with all contact info. for the hotel and oxygen supplier branch because things have been forgotten/confused, and I make three-page lists for the people who are house/cat sitting for us. By the time we leave, I zonk out from all the preparation and car packing including and oxygen tank hauling. then I sleep for the first third of the journey. (No, I am not driving.) I can readily see that a heavy-duty home caregiver could need a holiday before the holiday!

    One thing that could make it easier for a person to get away, I think, if able to do it on a fairly regular basis, and if s/he has a computer, is to have fairly standardized communication sheets that can readily be modified as conditions change.

    What might the person writing the list be thinking when s/he mentioned “Remember outside”? This puzzled me.

    • Bobbi

      If I recall, ‘Remember outside’ referred to lawn cutting, snow shovelling, and mail collecting. The actual article had a full paragraph of details to consider under each point. (Google “How to unplug from caregiving” for the full post.)

      You’re idea of making lists that can be used over and over is smart. In fact, we have a list we give to my daughter when she babysits our dog periodically.

      Can a helper do some of these things? They certainly can – like arranging for outdoor attention, finding oxygen suppliers, getting medication in bubble packs, etc. But then the big task would be finding that reliable, trustworthy helper!

      No, taking a break from caregiving will never be easy. And taking caregiving with you when you both take a break is above and beyond – something you’ve described very well!