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Care Giving Is Hard #writebravely #MondayMusings

I’m participating in the Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge through October and will be following the prompts suggested. I’ve also decided to focus on the theme of Anonymously Me – stories that people have shared with me and that we could all learn lessons from. If you have a story you’d like to share anonymously on Everyday Gyaan, do contact me. You can be assured that I will keep your name and details confidential. Today’s story, Care Giving Is Hard, was shared by  a woman in her early 30s who lives in one of India’s busy metros. I have tried my best to write this story from her perspective, based on our interactions.

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Care giving Is Hard

I was an only child and my mother brought me up alone as my father passed away when I was just three. Neither set of grandparents were supportive and I always admired my mother’s resilience and inner strength. She gave me the best she could afford and worked damned hard to make sure I got a good education.

It seemed natural then when I got married, that she should come live with me. My husband was kind enough to allow this and frankly Mum was very helpful around the house.  But there’s always a downside isn’t there? My mother seemed to grudge the time I spent with my husband. Every time I planned a short getaway with my husband, Mum would complain about her aches and pains and take to bed, forcing us to cancel our outing.

Guilt and Resentment

After my children were born, I can count on my fingers the times we could step out together as a family. I’d arrange for an aunt or a friend to stay with Mum, and hope that the four of us could go out. We’d hardly step out, when Mum would call. Mum also started to interfere a great deal in my children’s upbringing and undermine our discipline and rules as parents. If I was honest with myself, I’d say I started to resent this. Despite my husband’s urging, I never confronted her.

Whenever Mum was ill, I’d put everything aside to care for her and she was a difficult patient. But I’d recall how she looked after me when I was young, and put up with her demands. If I didn’t, she reminded me of her sacrifices and guilt took over! The illnesses seemed to increase. Several visits to the doctors and a battery of tests  suggested that her sickness was more psychological. I started not to take her grumbling about aches and pains seriously.

Shock, Guilt and Care giving

One morning, Mum suddenly collapsed, breathless and turning blue.  We rushed her to hospital. A new set of doctors and tests brought us the shocking news that she had lung cancer and it was terminal! The doctors advised that home care was the best option.

I tried hard to make  amends for what I saw as my neglect of my Mum. I worked hard to make sure she was comfortable – bathing her, turning her as she got weaker, cooking and feeding her, making sure that she took her medications. I’d keep calling the doctors and updating them. All this in addition to running my home and seeing to my children. My husband would pitch in as best he could, but he went to work and traveled a fair bit. He suggested more than once that we should employ an agency to supply caregivers to Mum. But I’d argue that I was her only child and no one could look after her the way I could.

The Consequences of Poor Choices

Mum lived for 6 months after the diagnosis. Those were the hardest times of my life. As she got more ill, she got more demanding, rude and even abusive at times. I went through the cycle of grief at her imminent passing, mental stress, physical exhaustion and feeling like everything was caving in around me. I began to have less and less time for the rest of the family and cut myself off from my friends. Slowly, I began to resent my mother too, but then guilt would take over, and I’d recommit myself to her care.

When my mother finally passed away, my first emotion was relief. Then guilt. Then grief. Now 8 years later, I continue to live with the guilt that I may not have given my mother the care she deserved.  I also feel guilty that I was not a good mother to my children and an attentive wife to my husband during my mother’s illness and for a long while thereafter.

Looking back I realize that my big mistake was to think I could do it all alone. What I didn’t realize was that I was not trained to be a care giver and outside resources could be more objective. I should have realized that caregiver burnout is a reality. I tried to be daughter, nurse, secretary, nutritionist, cook………and gave up being me!

Care giving is hard. Reach out and ask for help from extended family or friends. Take breaks. Look after yourself.

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34 Comments

  1. anubhutisethmehn anubhutisethmehn October 12, 2017

    Beautifully narrated Corrine…yes we cannot be perfect in everything but the best in something…you have done a lot already to give your best …now is the time to be the best ‘you’.

  2. Shilpa Garg Shilpa Garg October 11, 2017

    Cargiving is not easy and especially if you try to do it all. It can be truly stressful and the guilt of neglecting your family and work plays heavily on the mind too. It is best to delegate. But let me tell you that ‘You did Great so dont beat yourself up’.

  3. Mahati ramya adivishnu Mahati ramya adivishnu October 11, 2017

    That’s very difficult situation to be in. I never had to take a role of caregiver but I completely understand now how hard it is to take care of someone we love. I think, We cannot do everything, we cannot be a perfect wife, perfect mother and perfect daughter together.

  4. Bhavya (@Bhav_Zz) Bhavya (@Bhav_Zz) October 10, 2017

    It is such a difficult situation to go through. You want to be there for them yet you can’t be the only one they need. Looking after oneself is most important in such a situation or else we might end up venting our frustration on others. We should indeed take the help we can get.
    I just hope she’s been able to let the feeling of guilt go.

  5. Lata Sunil Lata Sunil October 10, 2017

    The concept of getting a caregiver is quite alien to most of us and extended families. When my grandmother was suffering from dementia, initially no body was ready to even discuss a caregiver. The excuse was that, she has eight children and their spouses and grown up grand children. Should we still ask someone from outside to look after her? But it took a toll on everyone’s lives because of the stress. Finally, when she had a hip surgery and couldn’t move, they agreed to get a home nurse. My grandmother became so healthy and happy under her care. Rest of the family also felt at peace.

    We should take all the support we can get. Unless, we are ourselves healthy, we cannot help another person.

  6. Vasantha Vivek Vasantha Vivek October 10, 2017

    As you said, Care Giving is always the hardest yet most appreciable one. Thanks for sharing her story. Hope she will get out of her guilt as time passes by.

  7. Poornima Poornima October 10, 2017

    This is absolutely true. I loved the way this post has been written because it speaks of the emotional dilemma that many of us face.If one can afford it, delegation is always the key to sanity in stressful situations.

  8. Chandni Chandni October 10, 2017

    losing some one you love is hard enough , living with the guilt that you didn’t do enough to help them while you could makes it worse.
    even though thinks happen for a reason , the way they do .. it tough to empathise ..

  9. Sunita Saldhana Sunita Saldhana October 10, 2017

    Yes, care giving is not easy. Not only do you get physically exhausted, the whole cycle of resentment-guilt-resentment drains you out mentally and emotionally.

  10. Reema D'souza Reema D'souza October 9, 2017

    Yes care giving is hard. I know it because I’ve seen how difficult it can be. And yes, I agree that its okay to take help from others in such situations rather than burdening oneself even more.

  11. Danisha Nathyal Danisha Nathyal October 9, 2017

    i can partially relate to it. i stay away from my parents in a different country and even then when i see my mother complaining all the time about her health and not taking right measure to get fit that really upsets me. i feel we individual need to take care of our selves. my mother is a one adamant soul , i love her to moon and back and would do exactly what she (anonymous) had done for her mother. it all comes down to emotions. and there is nothing above or as loving and giving as our parents.

  12. sulekha sulekha October 9, 2017

    It must have been so difficult to do everything yourself. I remember when my mother had fallen sick, my brother had hired two nurses’ aides from the hospital to look after her. One used to come at 8 in the morning till 8 at night and the other from 8 to 8 a m. My mom was well looked after and my sister in law could manage her home and kids without feeling overwhelmed. Getting professional help is a must in cases where the patient needs constant looking after. Your mother must have known how much you loved her and how well you looked after her, even if she didn’t say it. Take care.

  13. Care giving is hard. Reach out and ask for help from extended family or friends. This one is the truth.The caregiver needs a lot of care too.Such a sad story .But I am sure you did your best and mom knows it,

  14. Shalzmojo Shalzmojo October 9, 2017

    Yes we often try to do it ALL and put ourselves through the guilt grindermill of not being GOOD ENOUGH!!! I totally empathise with your situation adn will tell you to let go of the guilt as soon as possible. You have been a good soul all along. Its tough to take care of someone who is ailing and become dificult too. At the same time taking care of others who are not ill and giving into their demands too – very very tough balancing act! Please let go of the guilt and live your life peaceful in the thought that you took care of your mom and everything else to the best of your capabilities!!!

  15. Monika Monika October 9, 2017

    The emotions she feels are correct in order – relief guilt and then grief . The grief came last because she had overburdened herself with caregiving and neglecting other family issues in the process. So lets ask for help from friends , relatives or outside agencies. Loved it Corrine

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | October 9, 2017

      Yes, this is so true of many people, Monika. I hope we can all learn from this woman’s mistakes.

  16. Mocktailmommies Bloggers Mocktailmommies Bloggers October 9, 2017

    Taking rational decisions in trying times is difficult, specially when the person involved is none other than mother. Care giving is a demanding job, both physically and emotionally. Easier said than done. I must congratulate the lady for sailing through the turbulent times and coming out wiser!
    Thanks Corinne for sharing this tale.
    – Anagha From Team MocktailMommies

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | October 9, 2017

      Yes, the key is to take decisions rationally and objectively, Anagha and sadly, that doesn’t always happen.

  17. upasna (@lifebioscope) upasna (@lifebioscope) October 9, 2017

    Very nice post Corinne. You did a total justice narrating her condition, her state of mind. I agree we should seek help rather than punishing ourselves.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | October 9, 2017

      Glad your liked it, Upasna. The key is not to punish ourselves, isn’t it?

  18. bluerosegirl08 bluerosegirl08 October 9, 2017

    As a person who has had caregivers all of my life, sometimes family sometimes not. I offer this gentle thought to those struggling between a sense duty and exhaustion. If you need help, get it. Many of your loved ones are aware of the wrinkle that is now in your lives. The last thing we want is for you to get sick from taking care of us.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | October 9, 2017

      Thank you for weighing in, Rachel. Your opinion adds a whole new perspective to this post.

  19. Michele Morin Michele Morin October 9, 2017

    This story cuts very close to home as my mother also lived with my family during her years of decline. Having her here in the house with us was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life — until it came time to put her in a care facility, and then that was the hardest, even though it was clearly time to do that because of mobility and other issues. Caring for an elderly person who has become demanding and selfish certainly challenges all our notions about what it means to be a servant and to minister to “the least of these.”

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | October 9, 2017

      Thanks for sharing, Michele. Such a fine line to walk. I think we must be led to do what is best for our loved one, rather than be motivated by a sense of duty or guilt.

  20. Nabanita Nabanita October 9, 2017

    Caregiving is hard. It extremely hard because we are afterall humans and have expectations and emotions. I have seen how guilty and miserable I felt all the time when my parents were sick.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | October 9, 2017

      Yes, Nabanita. There’s so much pressure too. I do believe that if we can afford it, we must get professionals in to help us.

  21. BellyBytes BellyBytes October 9, 2017

    Care giving is not without its share of guilt and resentment. But it is a fact. We give care with best intentions but often the task becomes difficult . The only way I deal with it is to remember the words of the Gita – to do a job without any expectations – I try not to feel disappointed when I am not appreciated and find it hard not to feel resentful. But that’s life…… it’s tough and it has to be done….

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | October 9, 2017

      Oh I agree, Sunita. However, it makes no sense to completely wear ourselves out when we can ask for help.

  22. Shirley Corder Shirley Corder October 9, 2017

    Corinne, thanks for your open and frank post. I pray many will read it and take note. Caregiver burnout is a common problem, and how much more so when you’re not trained for it. It sounds to me as if you did a wonderful job, so stop beating yourself up! You are ONLY one person! How I spent World Card-making Day- #3 in ProBlogger Challenge

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | October 9, 2017

      Hi Shirley – This is not my story, but I do hope it will help others too.

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