Life is a convoluted journey fraught with challenges and rewards. We progress through different stages, and each person has very different challenges in each of these stages.
At some point in our lives, we are caregivers. As young adults, we care for our children and having recently returned from helping with our grandchildren for a few weeks, it struck home to me how difficult it is to be a young professional with a challenging job, rushing away to get the kids from daycare, trying to get food on the table, then bath and bed, etc.
It’s a small wonder my daughter was ready for bed an hour after the kids. I don’t remember it being so challenging.
The stress I saw her under was challenging to watch, and we helped as much as possible. I also encouraged her to stay on her exercise program, especially her running, and I enjoyed going for a run with her.
When we enter middle age, we hope that the kids have matured and are ready to fly the coup. This seems to be happening much later than it did for my parents. I was 56 before we became empty-nesters, and what a joyous occasion that was.
From age 50 on, life was very interesting. Just as freedom seemed to be within our grasp, we were thrust into the role of caregivers for our parents. Now in our 60s, this challenge, obligation and pleasure continue as our parents approach 100 years.
Is it a race to see if stress takes the caregivers first? Sociologists refer to the plight of the middle-aged as the Sandwich Generation – teenagers challenging us daily and aging parents moving from helping grandparents to grandparents who need help.
Family performs thoroughly 85 per cent of caregiving in B.C. – not institutional facilities as an industry faces staff shortages and service challenges, government and private services that provide at-home care to help out families.
I have seen caregivers die of a heart attack before the loved one they are looking after passes on. The burden of providing care can be onerous and one we are not trained for nor prepared for. Adult diapers and colostomy bags are real situations that we prefer not to think will happen to us.
The message that caregivers need to hear is that you cannot care for others without caring for yourself. This means different things for every person and situation. Seek help, get in part-time care, accept that things are not perfect when you leave but leave you must. Go to the gym, take a walk, go to a yoga class, find a hammock and read a book – different strokes for different folks.
Stress is the No. 1 cause of illnesses, especially cancer and heart disease. Don’t sell out your health by refusing help and trying to be a superhero.
The best decision we ever made for my mom was placing her in long-term care. She gets the help she needs while protecting my father’s health.
My father, at 93, walks daily, buys his groceries, lives independently, and visits my mom twice a day. He would not be alive today if she did not go into care.
If you know of a caregiver, reach out and see what they need – sometimes, a little means a lot.
Ron Cain is the owner of Sooke Mobile Personal Training. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Facebook at Sooke Personal Training.