There might be a few other jokes or memes running through your head with that. What do YOU do when the going gets tough?
We need to think about it. I was recently introduced to the term kaigo jigoku. It’s from the Japanese, the country with the oldest population (in terms of average age and life expectancy). It means, “caregiving hell.” It's the incredible pressure of caring 24/7 for someone who really can't care for themselves in ways they might have once been able to (or would be able to but for disease or disability). It’s when it seems that the only resolution, the only end to the strain (short of a miracle), is the death of the one cared for.
The term made the news as tragedies were happening to older folks with dementia in Japan. Family members in charge of care closed their eyes just for a moment and tragedy struck, or the family members could no longer stand the pressure and hopelessness and made terrible choices.
Many of us can resonate with “caregiving hell.” The tension between loving someone, wanting to do whatever it takes to care for them, and wanting to be anywhere else, anyone else. Or the awful feeling of relief mixed with deep grief, with a healthy dose of guilt mixed in.
Some of us can’t understand that at all, and I sincerely hope it stays that way for you.
When you’re in that place, it’s hard to even think about yourself, much less practice good self-care. It even feels selfish. But that’s exactly what you need to do to stay tough. We shared an article last week about this, and there are a lot more resources out there. (Proof that you are not alone in dealing with this.)
There’s never enough help, it seems, or enough money to pay for it, but don’t be afraid to ask. Find, or have someone help you find, the resources that are available, whether it’s meals or helping hands or running errands. Telehealth has been very helpful for some in these circumstances, as you can squeeze a session in without having to leave the house and find extra care.
Do what you can to get some enjoyment and stress relief. Caregiving is HARD. Mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Give yourself some grace, too. You won’t do this perfectly. You’ll probably get tired or cranky. Don’t expect yourself to be always cheerful or even good-spirited about it. Whatever you feel is not a sign of your flaws, it is just what you feel. No feeling is wrong here. Ironically, allowing yourself to have some negative emotions, when accepted for what they are, can help you be more positive in the long run.
It may feel like hell sometimes, but you don’t have to do it alone.
We know this is hard. We’d like to help where we can. You can reach out to us through our website here or our Facebook page.
PC: Phil DuFrene on Unsplash