Monday, October 17, 2011

When Sleep Isn't Enough

I wish I could still sleep that glorious, worry free sleep of a child. They seem to be able to sleep in just about any position and wake up totally refreshed. It makes you feel good just to watch them sleep.

Lately my caregiving duties have made sleep a luxury. I am up several times a night and it always takes me 45 minutes to an hour to go back to sleep. Consequently, I am getting only 3 to 6 hours of broken sleep a night. That didn't seem to bother me when I was a 23-year-old nursing student, but that was a long time ago and I need more sleep now.

Here are some of the tips I found available:

10 Tips for Family Caregivers

1. Caregiving is a JOB and respite is your earned right. Reward yourself with respite breaks often. FORTUNATELY, I HAVE a very sweet husband who gives me a break about once a week...last week I had dinner with a friend at a favorite local restaurant..we laughed and shared was only a couple hours, but I felt fully refreshed afterward.
Then this past Friday, I had dinner with my son and his family at a local Mexican Restaurant, again it was only a couple hours, but it was a much needed respite.

2. Watch out for signs of depression, and don’t delay in getting professional help when you need it... I have a local counselor I can call, but so far have been doing fine with my occasional respite times.

3. When people offer to help, accept the offer and suggest specific things that they can do. I have a problem sometimes accepting help...I am getting better at this!

4. Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition and how to communicate effectively with doctors.

5. There’s a difference between caring and doing. Be open to technologies and ideas that promote your loved one’s independence. I have given in following my charge in her walker every time she gets up...and I am allowing her to get up at night without my assistance. I have explained the risks and am comfortable that she understands the consequences.

6. Trust your instincts. Most of the time they’ll lead you in the right direction.

7. Caregivers often do a lot of lifting, pushing, and pulling. Be good to your back. I have found that WATER AEROBICS is a good source of exercise for me. It doesn't strain the muscles/joints too much, and at the same time produces some healthy endorphins which make me less likely to get depressed and down.

8. Grieve for your losses, and then allow yourself to dream new dreams. I miss the spontaniety which was once was part of my life...but I tell myself that this is a temporary arrangement, and it will not last forever. (Sometimes, though I allow myself a few tears).
9. Seek support from other caregivers. There is great strength in knowing you are not alone. I have a neighbor who has had huge caregiving responsibilities for many years...we share stories...I know she understands...

10. Stand up for your rights as a caregiver and a citizen. This is REALLY important...I began to feel some resentment when my charge started "demanding" things rather than asking. It seems she was expecting me to jump every time she thought of something else she might want. There wasn't a please or much appreciation and it seemed every time I went to sit down she thought of something else for me to do! I finally had a talk with her and explained that I had needs of which was an occasional REST! LOL

One thing more I would like to add to the above list is that you must find a way to LAUGH about some of the craziness...kind of like a stand-up comedian. What seems very trying at times, can sound funny if explained to others.

For example, I bought L a "talking" atomic clock. I am going to be hearing that darned thing in my nightmares for years to come, for if she wakes up she punches it to have it announce the time...umpteen times a night!!! The time is now two minutes til one AM; the time is now five minutes past three AM! This wakes me up every time it goes off! AAAAAUUUGGGHHH... Lesson here..don't buy your charge a talking clock!

L sleeps ALL day (I'm just resting my eyes) on the couch, and then she is up all night. I haven't found a solution for this one. I even tried having my husband watch football games with her all day one Saturday. I thought that might work, because he YELLS during the games. Who was I kidding...she slept anyway and was still up multiple times during the night...oh well.

So I say all this to add that there are common signs of Caregiver burnout, and here they are:

Common warning signs of caregiver burnout:

1. You have much less energy than you used to
2. It seems like you catch every cold or flu that’s going around (or you
get flares of "gout" and other stress related issues)
3. You’re constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break
4. You neglect your own needs, either because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore
5. Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction
6. You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available
7. You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for
8. You feel overwhelmed, helpless, and hopeless

I have had several times recently when one or more of the above were obvious to me. I have sought help when that occurred. I KNOW all these things. I was a Registered Nurse, Home Health Professional for many years and witnessed all these things many times. That doesn't make me invulnerable to them.

So, if you are a caregiver, or know someone else who is, take heed. Caregiver, take care of yourself, or you will soon be of no use to ANYONE! Caregiver's friend, speak up and lend a hand once in a while. Invite your friend to lunch or a movie for a break and advise them to have a "sitter" come in to give them a break.

Hope that some of this advice hits home for someone...

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