Jessica got a call from her sister Jennifer to come over and sit with mom, while she took a break. Not unusual or unnecessary, but it was happening more often.
Jessica worked and had a family so she was not as available as Jennifer. Jennifer, who was living with mom didn’t work, and was her main caregiver. Jennifer had moved in to help with dad a couple of years ago. Before dad died Jennifer promised him, she would take good care of mom. Jennifer was the oldest child and had a great relationship with her parents. She was always there for them, as she is now.
Dad’s care was not intensive, Jennifer could get away as needed because mom was there to medicate him or feed him if needed. When mom became the primary focus, the care increased. Mom had just started oxygen and was more out of breath then ever. Simple tasks became impossible, where she required assistance with nearly everything she did.
Jennifer didn’t think she was burning out, but clearly her behavior was telling a different story. She had a couple friends in town so if the opportunity to “hang out” with them came up she would make arrangements for Jessica to sit with mom for a few hours. This was generally on a weekend, and later in the evenings so it didn’t interfere with Jessica’s active work or family time. It was happening more frequently, to the point that Jessica was becoming concerned.
What was not obvious was that Jennifer was out partying, drinking, and gambling. She would meet her friends at the casino, have a few drinks, and spend money she did not have. Mom would ask Jennifer where she was going, or who she was going to be with, but Jennifer would not always answer her honestly. Mom would comment that Jennifer was gone a lot lately.
Jennifer’s respite was not healthy and was taking its toll on her physically and mentally. She needed a healthy escape. At times she felt, I am ok, I just need a break, other times she thought this is becoming a pattern and needs to stop.
Jessica confronted Jennifer, which did not go well the first time. Jessica did not leave it alone and approached Jennifer again, this time Jessica had researched caregiver burn out. Jennifer was open to this discussion because it was making sense. She felt this undying responsibility to dad, and moms care was more intense leaving her with no time to reset. She knew she could count on Jessica, unfortunately, she was not being honest and was taking advantage of Jessica through it all.
Jennifer told Jessica everything. She felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She realized that communication about her feelings was her solution. Jessica was able to give her some tips and validate that her burn out feelings were real, and not uncommon in this setting. She assured her they could come up with a schedule between them, and a promise to have open and honest communication. Jessica also told her there were resources outside the family that would be available to assist in a pinch.
Jessica also shared that she was going to hire a care manager to help the family determine care needs for their mother and to help set up respite care options with reliable in-home care companies who could be trusted. Having a care manager meant that both could rely on a professional advocate to guide them through mom’s health care challenges, her home care needs, and help relieve the family’s stress. This sounded wonderful to Jennifer as she never knew there was a professional that could help them.
Jennifer was refreshed and continued to live with mom. With the new arrangement she was able to start a part-time job working remotely while home care aides helped for four hours a day. She took up her hobby of gardening again, enjoyed shopping for yarn to share with mom, and just getting out of the house for a drive, even taking mom along on drives when she was up to it. It got them both out of the house and gave them time to talk, away from the day-to-day routine.
When her party friends called, she would politely decline a night out, suggesting a quick coffee or a walk along the Centennial Trail. Proud of herself she would call Jessica and talk about how she handled the call, and would invite Jessica and the family over for dinner. Everything was working out now that the caregiver burn out was recognized and dealt with in a healthy positive way.
Mom was feeling the benefits, she noticed Jennifer was more engaged, available, and got to meet a few new people along the way, who she could share her crochet creations with.
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