Monday, January 23, 2006

Burn Out

They say the first rule of caregiving is to take care of yourself, so you don't ruin your own health and sanity. But random events this week made that difficult.
On Thursday and Friday I was doing caregiving because Jona's grandmother died.
Then Saturday night was an emergency--Mom's bad dreams and hallucinations.
Sunday was my usual day to be the caregiver. We drove to Claremont for WomenChurch. Mom was fairly lucid, speaking only when it was her turn as we went around the circle, and being both brief and appropriate in her comments. People were reporting on their Christmas activities and events since November; Mom reported having gone to my house for Christmas.
On Sunday 2 pm to 10 pm the usual caregiver, Racquel, could not work. I had to cover that shift. I left Mom with Ocean View from 4 pm to 6:30, but then I had to return to shower her, sit with her until her meds at 9 pm, and put her to bed.
This all went fairly well, with the usual ups and downs.
Mom was delivering her usual string of ultimatums about her care--put the night socks on this way, those nightgowns are all ragged, I need to go buy some new clothes--and she complained when I told her I had to leave at 9 pm.
All of a sudden it hit me: I could just walk out of this room and never come back.
I knew I could do it. I didn't say anything to Mom, except that I was more impatient in helping her into bed. She complained about having to wear the foot guards to prevent inversion, and I cut her off.
I was angry, completely burned out, but nothing really happened.
I couldn't figure out how to set up the Motorola walkie-talkies so one would be constantly transmitting the room's sounds to the other, which I would give to a caregiver, so I didn't leave until almost 10 pm.
Eventually I got home, thinking with relief that Jona would report for work at 6 am, and that Connie would be doing the shower and bedtime work tomorrow night.
The next day I drove to Ojai for a friend's memorial Mass. I turned my cell phone to silent and took the whole day to drive and reflect and enjoy the view of coastal mountains and sand dunes.
But at 5 pm I checked my cell phone and listened to a new message:
Connie would not be coming to work this evening. She had her period with menstrual cramps.
I was on again. There was no time to try to get anyone else.

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