From the Desert to the Great Lakes

Portage Lake

Portage Lake

I have not written a blog in a very long time. I haven’t even been crafting much lately. I recently moved from Arizona to Michigan. In fact, I live next to a lake, not one of the Great Lakes, but a natural lake all the same. Michigan has a lot of small lakes and rivers. And rain.

For the past year I have been suffering from caregiver burnout. I was an unpaid caregiver for my disabled friend for about 8 years. I gave up working to take care of her. She is not able to move around much, and is very obese. I had a very small pension that I needed to contribute to the household, which means that I had no money to spend on myself, except for Christmas and birthday gift cards from my family.

Caregiver burnout is a very serious situation that you can easily find yourself in. When you are a caregiver, the person you are taking care of can be quite demanding, not in a dominating way, but constant “can you get me this”  so you are up and down and have little time to focus on your own needs. In Arizona, where I was living, there are adult day care centers and respite caregivers, and I really wish I could have been able to take advantage of the opportunities. The person I was caring for was extremely obese, and we simply could not afford to transport her anywhere, even if she had been willing to go someplace. Also, money was very tight and we couldn’t afford to have someone come in to give me respite, because I was not a priority, the person I was caring for was the focus of pretty much everything.  I was on call 24/7, with no days off, no vacation, and no understanding of the incredible amount of stress that builds up.

The symptoms of caregiver burnout are: (courtesy of helpguide.org)

  • Anxiety, depression, irritability
  • Feeling tired and run down
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Overreacting to minor nuisances
  • New or worsening health problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling increasingly resentful
  • Drinking, smoking, or eating more
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Cutting back on leisure activities

In retrospect, I had gotten to the point where I was suffering from almost all of these symptoms. In addition, her health had declined to the point where it was causing me physical pain to take care of her, because she was not able to do much. She became seriously ill, causing me to call 911. That’s when I snapped. I talked to my family members who live in Michigan, and I was offered the opportunity to move in with my brother. His wife has Parkinson’s Disease (yes, another caregiver job so to speak) and he needs to do a lot of traveling for his job. The difference is that I have family here that can pitch in, and my sister-in-law can do a lot of things for herself. What she needs is someone to be on hand to provide companionship more than anything else.

I recommend that anyone who is a caregiver, especially if they are feeling any of the above symptoms, stand up for yourself and demand help and time away. You can’t help anyone if you get sick.

The following websites are helpful resources for caregivers.

  • webmd.com
  • aarp.com
  • caring.com

If there is anyone out there who is a caregiver for someone with Parkinson’s Disease, please share any tips or resources.

Make sure to take care of yourself, so that you can take care of others

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