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My Perspective: When You Can’t Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First

Posted on May 23, 2019
Article written by
Cheryl

How being a caregiver has affected my life—this topic alone covers so much.

I was a licensed practical nurse (LPN) who traveled after working in hospitals and home-care facilities. As a "local" traveling nurse I went to homes very much in the situation I find myself in now! I took the job to lessen the workload for my mom at the time. My father lived with a traumatic brain injury from 1993 through 2001.

There are so many ways my mother’s disease has affected my life. It completely changed our family. We've been broken for four-plus years and rarely speak. I never thought this would be possible. As the middle child, I try to smooth things over. But I find my patience dwindling and have feelings of being deserted, as two of my sisters moved out of state. I can only carry so much. I have now narrowed my field of focus to my mom, the business that pays the bills, and myself. I had a man in my life, but there's too much drama to bring into a relationship when we are both on overload.

I have had to become the power of attorney and take on all my mother’s affairs with regards to her business, her bills, her healthcare, and her welfare. Now as this disease is stealing her, I am forced to be the owner of the business that I never wanted. When it came down to the four sisters, it seems there's always that one in the family who takes on the responsibilities nobody would necessarily want. I would love to have my sisters all together, working through all our differences, especially at this time.

My mother is constantly talking from the minute she wakes up until we can change directions and moods. Taking rides, going to places that don't exist, just to change scenery and distraction.

Sometimes nothing changes and we are back to the incessant talking. This causes me so much anxiety, as there seems to be no way to stop her. If interrupted, she gets louder. I let her get it out and hope she will tire out eventually.

It is said that we need to put on our own oxygen mask first when a plane is going down, but that doesn't always happen. I use that as a metaphor, as it shows that we should be able to breathe in order to help anyone else. If we are not taking care of ourselves, we do wear out. We weaken our immune systems by not sleeping, by barely taking time for a good shower, and by not eating due to being upset. Letting things go is something you have to do for your loved ones. We need to stop and take care of ourselves. Even if that means my mother isn't happy, like the time I brought in a friend to sit with her while I took a shower. That's a bummer, but I try to remember she'll get over it.

I still experience that knee-jerk reaction to things that happen sometimes. I notice that I'm walking on eggshells as I go through the days. From the minute I wake up I sometimes have a ball of anxiety in my stomach. But I have learned to do meditative breathing to relax through the anxiety that I have had for years.

I think some caregivers suffer just as much as the ones they care for. Sometimes it just doesn't seem possible. Without myALZteam, I would have no idea that there are others going through this. When I say that this site has been my savior, I truly mean it. It’s a place for all of us to gather and lean on one another for the kind of support you can only get through living it. These people are my friends now.

My Perspective articles discuss Alzheimer's disease and dementia from a specific point of view. We understand that everyone with the condition or caring for someone with the condition has a different experience. We aim to share as many of those viewpoints as we can. We’d love to hear from you. Please submit your proposal for editorial consideration to editors@myhealthteams.com. My Perspective articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyHealthTeams staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Cheryl is a member of myALZteam. Learn more about her here.

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