?Three Biggest Caregiver Lies
As a dedicated caregiver to Tyler, I learned how to be brutally honest with everyone around us, while lying to myself. I lied to myself to figure out ways to go on with my normal daily functions. I lied to myself in order to just sleep at night. Here are the 3 lies I became an expert at telling myself:
- My own health could wait so Tyler’s could come first. It seemed such a noble thought that I would always place him first, and my own needs would wait. The problem is, my mind and body didn’t pay attention to that rationale. Just because I didn’t visit the dentist doesn’t mean my teeth didn’t suffer. I now had to have a procedure done to reverse disease caused by excess plaque. I went so long in going to the doctor that I was eliminated from their system and was considered a “new patient” upon my return. As a result, my blood pressure was out of control. I experienced panic attacks because, simply put, my anxiety didn’t know how else to manifest itself. The lesson was simple, as a caregiver we cannot make our bodies immune to wear and tear. In fact, we are MORE susceptible to wear and tear, and we must take care of it.
- I’m doing fine. I’ve seen a statistic which shows up to 70% of caregivers experience depression. Other issues include high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental deterioration. There are even cases which suggest that caregivers can assume the very symptoms of the individuals they are caring for. Chronic stress is extremely detrimental to the workings of the caregiver body. To combat this, a caregiver must place themselves under a physician’s care and be monitored for stress.
- Nobody can care for them the way I do. I see this as the ultimate lie. And I say this as a caregiver who told himself this for many years. The truth is, I would feel guilty having someone else care for Tyler. In reality, I did not eventually have the skillset to care for him as a disabled adult. His needs became bigger than my abilities. I may have had the ability to make him comfortable every day, but he no longer thrived under my care. He needed a team that knew how to give him a fulfilling adult life. I had to realize that the lie I was telling myself was to serve my own feelings, and not his.
As caregivers we are so deeply involved in our lives that we often cannot look at things with an objective eye. It’s true that others cannot relate to our situation because they are not living it, however, they can offer an important outsiders view that should not be instantly ignored. Instead, we have to allow others to help care for us. We have to acknowledge that we are vulnerable and need to be supported so that we can support our special needs loved one.
If you are a caregiver, you must find a way to do the following:
- Find ways to take mental and physical breaks
- Enlist the help of a therapist to manage your own stress
- Keep regularly scheduled appointments with doctors, dentists, etc.
- Maintain relationships and activities outside of your caregiving activities
Caring for ourselves has to be included in caring for our loved ones. Without the first, we cannot do the second.
My Walk With Tyler is about my journey with my son, Tyler, and is intended to provide a voice to caregivers, especially those with disabled children. To be fair, I am not a therapist, or an expert on special needs, nor would I intend to pretend to be. My goal is to share all of the triumphs and heartbreaks that we have been through, especially during this transition into Tyler’s residential placement. Because there is no “manual” for caregivers to follow, we must help each other find the way. My hope is that through my advice, stories, and experiences that the reader can find nuggets to add to their own journey. To read more from Tom click here!