Thursday, February 16, 2012
Last night, calls of confusion came in from my wife's mom. She was saying that there had been a party and all her china was broken, she hadn't had anything to eat all day, and no one was home. Jessica, the caregiver, called to tell us that Mom was having a bad day. Some days she is perfectly lucid and others days she isn't.
An older friend told my wife that some caregivers abuse their patients, slamming them into wheelchairs and slapping them. We know that Jessica and Brad are great people and treat Mom with love. And we stop by often to see her. I suppose that there are those who just reach the end of their rope with taking care of others, whether it's the elderly, the physically and mentally disabled, or low bottom alcoholics. We are supposed to have compassion, but the human psyche can only take so much stress.
Sadly, the number of people who have caregiver burnout is increasing as more caregivers take on the job without getting the help they need, or try to do more than they are able to--physically or financially. Those who are burned out experience fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression which sometimes can result in wanting to hurt those for whom they are caring.
I think that living with active alcoholism has the effect of burnout. All the positivity of a life can become filled with anger and frustration. Feeling that there is no one to turn to, no one to share the secret with can create such isolation that life seems hardly worth living. And the alcoholic is likely feeling the same way--isolated, ashamed, lonely, desperate, filled with loathing. More than one person gets lost to the disease when there is no respite from it.
We all need breaks from whatever stressful activity we are doing. I needed it when I was working so I would take vacation days. We give the caregivers a break by either staying there ourselves or bringing in temporary help. And I give myself a respite now and then for no particular reason by spending a shining day on the water on an old boat. Just keeping things in balance. It really helps.