T Therapy, or, Taking Care of the Caregiver
Caring for a loved one with a disease such as dementia is incredibly stressful--as I don’ t need to tell anyone who’s doing or has done it. Psychologists even have terms for it: compassion fatigue or empathic strain. Books, friends, doctors, will tell you that you have to take care of yourself first in order to be able to care for the other person. Figuring out how to do that, though, is a lot harder. Whether your loved one is in his or her own home or living with you, caregiving is going to take a big chunk of your time and a huge psychological toll. Watching a parent, grandparent, or other loved one deteriorate day by day, never knowing what you’re going to find the next time you see her or him, wears terribly on your mind and emotions.
Nevertheless, I was able to find a few means of self-defense against the stress; I wrote about a few of them here. Remember why you’re doing it. Treasure the good days. Grab your moments when you can for a quick walk or cup of tea alone. Arrange to see friends once in a while.
Some others aren’t so obvious. First, try to have a place, however small, that’s just for you, somewhere you can go when you need to cry, bang on the wall, or throw something. When we stayed with my mother for two months in her little house, there was no such place. I couldn’t even leave the house unless someone else was there with her—my husband or my sister-in-law—because we were so afraid she would fall. When we moved into our multi-unit house together, I at least had the relief of having our own apartment upstairs for a retreat when I needed it.