Saturday, September 13, 2008

Caregiver Recovery

It has been over two years (May, 2006) since my mother passed away from cancerous lumps #6 & 7. Dad's brain tumour, originally excised in early 2003, came back at the time of my mother's death, until he finally succumbed in February, 2007. Once he passed over the grieving began.

As a grieving daughter I have found there are many things that help in my recovery. As a caregiver I was stressed beyond belief. I would go into the LTC home every other day or so, every day when I could, to assist dad with his ADL as the LTC homes are understaffed and I felt useful. It was a strain, however, to see him deteriorate and my health suffered. I know I was not alone, but there were days that I felt a deep burden. I began to feel stress. I experienced panic attacks when, for example, hearing very loud noises, or parking on a hill. My startle reflex was horribly affected. The least noise (fireworks, car horns, people yelling) would create a sense of insecurity and I would have to turn inwards. My 'fight or flight' reflex was in full panic mode.
As caregivers we need to look after ourselves. There are basics things we can do: good nutrition, exercise, meditation, relaxation, talking to others in the same passage of life, writing a memoir, researching, and generally looking after our well-being. I have read ever thing I could find about caregiver stress (research) and other's stories (autobiographies). The latest was Simone de Beauvoir's A Very Easy Death (1965). I concluded from this book that the more things change...the more they stay the same. Beauvoir had issues with understaffing in Paris health care, over-treatment of her failing mother, lack of respect for the frail, and access to caregiver support. When my late in-laws passed away I read everything I could of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' work. It helped understanding the Five Stage of Grief.

One day at a time I began to eschew excess food and wine. We cut back the number of times we ate out since after feeding my dad dinner almost every night I really wouldn't feel like cooking. My depression was severe. Eventually, I have cut out alcohol weekdays. I allow myself a treat on weekends. At one point I used food and drink to soothe my troubled body and soul and to help me sleep. I realised that my weight gain was a result of these addictions.

I kept up my daily exercise - as this releases endorphins that help in relaxation. I now manage 30 minutes per day on a very regular basis. I have to get up and do it first thing in the morning, or I do not tend to get to it. So many other thing in life get in the way.

I have realised that while recovery is slow, I am making progress. I have lost 11 lbs. and have been feeling much better. My workouts have become more effective and I have more energy than ever before. I have come to terms with the means by which my mother chose her death. I know that I did look after my father as best I could at the time. Once he lost the ability to figure out the function of things he couldn't feed himself very well. Staff at the LTC home told me he would ask for me and that is comforting. (Mind you he asked for my late mother, too, but that is another story!)

I have taken one day at a time. My adult children continue to support me. My grandbaby I have taken pride and joy in; the cycle of life. I have begun to feel fewer panic attacks. My body feels more fit. My mind feels more alert. I have experienced more joy and appreciation of life, nature, and people. One day at a time...

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