Statistics show that caregivers tending to patients who are loved ones add an average of 20 hours a week to an already crammed work schedule. The results can be a now recognized problem of Caregiver Fatigue. It sneaks up on a person so gradually, that I hadn’t even realized that I was now a statistic and struggling. I would make dinner for my parents and sit down and eat with them to ensure that they would stay nutritionally sound, and then head home to cook for my own family. And in so doing, while I increased my food intake and was headed on a dangerous trajectory.
Well, you can imagine what happened and it didn’t take very long. I gained fifteen pounds, stopped exercising, and was sleeping poorly. It ended up being the perfect storm for becoming even more stressed and unhealthy. I was so burned out that I got to a point that I had nothing in the tank…I didn’t have any extra energy for my family, my parents, and especially for myself. It was unsustainable.
So I went back to basics…in this case a pen and paper. I made two columns – the things I had that were working for me and the things I needed. I called on siblings and friends to spell me. I contacted a few restaurants about delivering meals and then I focused on myself. I sat with my parents during dinner but no longer felt obligated to eat. I started taking walks and getting fresh air and I shared the stressors with friends and really talked.
In the end, the years that I have had with my parents (my father died in 2014) ended up being one of the great gifts in my life. But if I hadn’t taken stock in my situation and reinvested in myself, I might be saying something very different.