True Strength is Knowing Your Limits
By Selina Linn , PCOA Aging and Caregiving Specialist
started to become a hoarding situation. [persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions] What was something stressful that you were surprised by? Small tasks somehow become more stressful. I love to cook. She would refuse to eat. I would frantically try to make meals she would like. My day became preoccupied with coming up with new recipes. I started to make meal plans. Cooking was no longer something My mother-in-law wanted everything to be very quiet. If I brought people over, she would yell for them to leave or say something unpleasant. I just stopped bringing people over. I couldn’t leave her alone, so I stopped going anywhere. How did it affect your marriage? that brought me joy. Did you feel isolated? My husband did not understand her symptoms or behaviors, so it made a wedge in our marriage. I got a nanny cam. The camera was so I could watch her in another room and, so I could play it for my husband to keep the peace. When she would tell him that I denied her food or tried to hurt her, I would not argue, I would just show him the video of her day. When did you know you could no longer be the primary family caregiver? One day, I was trying to mop. She grabbed the mop and began to dump water on the floor. She began to walk in the puddle of water and was losing
her footing. I tried to pull her out of the puddle. Once she was out of danger, she ran straight for the door, out into the streets, screaming that I was hurting her. I broke down in tears. I had reached my limit. Where is your mother-in-law now? She is with my brother-in-law. I can see that he is overwhelmed, I can see in him what I was going through, but he will not take any help at this time. What do you want other family caregivers to know? That it is not weak or shameful to ask for help. I thought I was prepared. Being a family caregiver is a full-time job 24/7 and everything else goes by the wayside. What would you tell family members and friends of the family caregiver? Not to give up on us! To keep calling and asking if we are okay. I had friends and family who would ask me daily, “Are you Okay? Do you need help? We are here for you!” I needed their words! If you are a family caregiver or know a family caregiver that needs help, please reach out to us. Call the PCOA helpline at (520) 790-7262 and ask to be put in contact with an Aging and Caregiving Specialist.
Here is Peggy’s caregiver story. Peggy is a middle-aged married woman with an active life. She works full time and has many friends. She appears to be someone who can do it all, but there comes a time in everyone’s life when true strength is knowing your limits. Why did you become a family caregiver? My mother-in-law was always independent but when she turned 84, she had an accident that caused her memory to change. She was diagnosed with dementia and was no longer able to function as she did before. After a few weeks, with her being in the home with my husband and I, I realized that I was not able to work full-time and care for her. I realized I had to resign. It was very hard to resign from a career that I was proud of. What type of behaviors did your mother- in-law have that were caused by her dementia? She would become angry. When my husband came home from work, she would tell him that I was abusing her. She had “sundowners”, which means that her dementia symptoms became more severe at night. She would become more aggressive and more agitated by noises. What type of behavior did she develop that you were not expecting? She became fascinated with plastic bags. She would collect plastic bags and find anything she could to put in the bags. It
January 2022, Never Too Late | Page 11
Pima Council on Aging
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