Over the last few months, we've been moving my grandmother into a care facility. She has trouble with her memory and needs full time support. Since I don't live in the same city, my responsibilities have been minimal, but it still got me thinking.
For the last several years, my aunt has been shouldering the increasing burden of trying to take care of my grandmother so that she could stay in her own home. It's a big job and one that often involves needing to be patient with the person you're trying to help.
I can sympathize. Taking care of an infant or small child is relatively easy (okay, maybe not, but in comparison, it is). Society understands and there are numerous support mechanisms. Plus, babies are generally cute (except when they're screaming endlessly, but that's another issue).
Having to put in that same level of care and sacrifice into taking care of a parent or an older child is harder. And they're usually less willing to go along with the caregiver. Dealing with incontinence, preparing meals that you know will be rejected, swallowing anger to explain something over and over, checking to make sure clothes are suitable, following up on the hundreds of daily tasks necessary to keep life rolling, it gets exhausting. And unlike with an infant, there's no real end in sight. For an older child, the care can and does stretch out for decades. For an elderly parent, it can seem like all there is to look forward to is increasing responsibility until they pass on, which brings its own grief and guilt.
Workplaces don't understand needing to go to appointments, get to the pharmacy before it closes, or needing to take time to fill out application after application. Most friends don't understand being too exhausted to go out (but those that do are the best, thank you!). Spouses and other children can naturally resent the lion share of time and effort being sucked into an increasingly large black hole of necessity and need. The judgment (you should have done x, y or z) builds up fast and can hit you when you least expect it.
Being responsible gets isolating. Being responsible when there's no one else to take up the responsibility is soul crushing.
That's why I urge caregivers not to give up the things which matter most. Carve out time, no matter how hard it is. Because otherwise, you will get chewed up and spit out by your responsibilities, and then you'll still have to crawl back to your duties. Take care of yourself.