Caregivers are the most “SELFLESS” humans on the planet. the job title often involves hours of OVERTIME which is overlooked, and the pay (if there is any) is something to be desired.
We start out our journey as caregivers without too much thought to a “plan” but without one, we often forget ourselves.
My guest is one buzy lady who not only takes care of her mom, but just started up an online business, at
www.donnathecrazycaregiver.com ,(don’t forget to check it out )
I hope you enjoy as much as I did interviewing her 🙂
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and actually who you’re taking care of?
Julie, I was going thru a very bitter divorce at the time I moved in with mom just to clear my head and to find a fresh start. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine mom would come close to having a stroke and her family doctor telling me she could NOT live alone anymore. How could I walk away from her at that time after her taking me in? So that’s when it became a reality that I was going to become mom’s primary caregiver by default.
2. How long have you been her caregiver?
I moved in with mom I believe in 2001 so it’s at least 13 years that I’ve been caring for mom.
3. Do you have siblings or any other family members who are giving you help?
Yes, I have siblings. They all lead very busy lives and since I’m the only one who’s single it’s VERY hard for me to ask for help. I see and hear how busy they are and I just don’t ask very often for any of them to help me.
4. How did you come to that decision and was it an easy ?
I hear them talk how busy their lives have become and that’s how I made that decision. NO it’s not easy. It was extremely difficult for me but it’s like the decision was made for me or my subconscious made it for me.
5. What would you say your biggest challenge are a caregiver?
Here are my BIGGEST challenges…
NOT taking care of myself and getting respite
NOT ASKING for help
FEELING isolated from the outside world
NOT spending much time with my children and grandchildren
ACCEPTING my feelings whether it’s guilt, anger, fear, helplessness, loneliness and yes grief because mom and I are both grieving thru this process.
6. What is your biggest reward from being a caregiver?
My biggest reward is knowing that mom is not in a nursing home sitting alone. She loves her home and she enjoys sitting on the porch. Nursing Home would be more like a hospital setting so mom is where she wants to be and that makes me happy even though it’s hard at times.
7. Do you take time out for yourself everyday?
NO, I usually leave to go to the store but I do not go out just to have fun. I take mom with me most of the time because she doesn’t like being alone unless it’s bad weather out and she will stay in. I do sit in my office working on my online business but I’m still at mom’s beacon call.
8. And if so what is your favorite activity or hobby you lose track of time doing?
The main thing I do is work on my websites. This I can do and at the same time be close by for mom. I have 3 websites. www.donnathecrazycaregiver.com which is self-explanatory. www.donnaharris.net which is my main network marking company and www.donnaharris.co which is for anything else I want to promote.
Health, Inspiration, or anything that’s on my heart that day. I love helping other people and connecting thru my websites is an easy and effective way to communicate.
I feel like I’m giving them [[[hugs]]]. My health doesn’t let me do my favorite walking anymore and I don’t have any hobbies so my online sites are my main way of escaping but still being available.
May not be the best way to find time for myself but now it’s the easiest way for me to do it.
I know the final is completely getting away from here and would also be good for mom to be away from me but it just doesn’t seem to work out that way now.
9. Is there any part of the caregiving job you get an organization to do ie. bathing, driving to appt. etc?
NO, I do all that. I am paid through an agency so if I have someone else come in to do those jobs then it takes away from me and I’m still getting the SAME pay that I started with 13 years ago. NO RAISE for caregivers.
10. How important is that and how you have any encouraging words and or ideas for someone who is starting this journey by themselves.
Start out from the beginning and put a support team together. Start from the start taking time for yourself because if you don’t start out that way I believe you fall into a pattern and it’s very difficult not to get drawn into their world.
11. When you are having a really bad day what do you do to make the day a little brighter?
If I find myself getting into a hole and see that it’s going no where then I get mom and we go for a ride and that seems to bring us both back to the center.
It seems like when we’re in the car riding we are on neutral grounds but back at home we tend to get on to each other.
“Mom and I both don’t care if we get lost.”
We just keep driving and ask for directions and ENJOY each others company. NOW back at home is a totally different story so it seems we should sell the house and by a motorcoach and take to the road. HA HA
12. If you could press “rewind”or even “delete” on anything to do with caregiving or self-care what would it be and how would you improve it.
Oh, this is tough. I’d sit down with the family from the beginning and put an agreement together of what I can do and can’t do. What I am willing to do and not willing to do. Set boundaries and be clear. This is a huge struggle for me now.
13. Walk us through a typical day in the life of “Donna Harris”.
I’m usually up by 4:30am to get my chores done before mom gets up. I take the phone off the hook so the ring will NOT wake mom up because this is the ONLY time I have for myself.
I have a daily list that the agency gives me to do. I also care for my young grandson while his mom works and he starts 1st grade this week so that eases the pressure up a lot on me.
I take care of my bills and moms bills and believe me that’s very emotional because she wants me to take care of all the business but she wants her hands in it too (you know as well as I do it’s hard when 2 people are involved in the checking acct) and I get very overwhelmed because she doesn’t comprehend much now and it is a chore itself trying to explain things to her.
AND of course she is hard of hearing and that complicates my life even more. Her hearing aids don’t help at all.
The moment mom’s feet hits the floor in the mornings she starts telling me what to do and continues until she retires at night.
At 66 this tends to really work on my nerves. And I mean all day long.
In the evenings she wants me to sit on the front porch with her and watch the cars. One day I got so bored that I told her I couldn’t do it anymore. I enjoy sitting on the porch but not for hours and hours just watching cars drive by.
One day I finally told her I had to go in….”mom I’m not 90 and I don’t want to watch the cars anymore.” She replied….”Well, I have to” I feel like I have turned into a 90-year-old woman along with mom.
14. People who are reading this, some are well seasoned veterans like yourself at caregiving, some are just starting out. What advice care you give BOTH groups?
The MAIN thing I would say to both of these groups is that YOU BETTER find something to LAUGH at because I find it’s a struggle to laugh anymore.
15. And any words of advice for those who have hit the “caregiver wall” anything that can get them back on their feet?
1 Find someone you can let it all hang out and not have to worry about hurting their feelings and just imagine how it feels to pour out your heart. It has to be someone safe and NOT siblings unless they’re very supportive.
2 When talking to the doctor I always send a letter a few days ahead about the issues so when he comes in he already has the list what we are dealing with. don’t like to talk to the doctor about mom in front of her and make her feel like she’s on trial.
3 It took me a long time to ask the doctor for help when I went into depression. I felt like a failure because I always looked at myself as a tough strong person but caregiving can bring you to your knees.
After breaking down and asking for help, he put me on an antidepressant, now I’m able to think better and occasionally smile and life looks brighter.
PLEASE talk to your doctor if you need help.
Thank You Julie for letting me share a little part of my life with you and your readers. If you have any questions please feel free to have them contact me.