Caregiving is Like Running a Marathon with a Bear Chasing You

May 1, 2009 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment

Caregiving is a lot like running a marathon…with a bear chasing you.

You have to pace yourself because the according to the Family Caregiving Alliance, the average caregiver is in that role for 4.5 years. If that’s the case, then just like a marathon, you have to somehow figure out how to build your stamina and sustain it for the long caregiving haul.

And like being chased by a bear, caregiving has a “fear factor” element. You know that antsy feeling you have all the time? It’s probably fear based.

Deep in your brain are worry-thoughts: I can’t do this, I don’t know how. What if they die? what if i die? Who would care for them? I’m scared to go in his/her room in the morning. What if I hurt them? What if this goes on forever? Fear-based thoughts we rarely allow ourselves to utter out loud.

So the goal is to keep moving, (marathon), and stay ahead of the fear-factor (bear).

For many, that 4.5 year statistic represents only a portion of their time. Your loved one may have early onset Parkinson’s or may show symptoms of Alzheimer’s in their 50’s or 60’s. After several years of home care, you may have to move your mom, dad, or spouse into a care home. It starts all over then. You have new adjustments, new challenges, and your caregiving journey is nowhere near over. It may feel that your big old snarling bear is getting the best of you. In time, you and your loved one find your rhythm again, and yes, even manage to savor a few more sweet times together.

I don’t share this with you to depress you. I share this with you so that you don’t burn out—and so you’ll begin to examine those scary whispers you’re hearing and begin to face them one by one. Caregivers aren’t perfect, but the good news is that you don’t have to be. Just like becoming a parent, you can read a few books, get tips from other moms and dads, but in the end, you just have to do it. Love you child with all your heart. Educate yourself the best you can. And learn to accept the mistakes you make along the way. Caregiving follows that same path. Love big and hard and do the best you can.

No one signs up for their first marathon knowing exactly what they’re in for. You can’t think about the blisters, the chaffing, the tears, the “I can’t do this” moments that seem to go on and on.

Just like in a marathon, I had to learn to chunk it down. Caregiving was way to daunting to face all at one time. Just like with a good run, start with walking around the block, then walk/run one mile, then two. Eat better, get to bed on time, find a running buddy, and envision yourself actually running the marathon. Over the course of a few months you’ll go from barely able to complete three miles to actually enjoying a good, brisk run. You’ll be proud of your accomplishment, and one day, you’ll actually say to someone, “I’m a runner.”

Caregiving has many surprises along the way. Hey, it’s not all bad! Yes, some days are going to be tough Some days you’ll wish you could run all the way to the other side of the continent! But other days you’ll feel a profound sense of pride. You can actually manage your wild and wooly life for brief moments at a time.

And one day, you’ll turn around and face your bear—and ask it for a dance.

Entry filed under: family caregiving. Tags: , , , , , , .

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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