How do I take care of me?

Dear Jo,

There is really no one to assist me with my husband, and I am exhausted.  He doesn’t sleep at night, and he refuses to go to the senior center.  Last time I left him home while I went to the store he wandered away, and a neighbor brought him home. Everyone tells me to take care of myself.  But how am I supposed to do that?

Exhausted and Alone


Dear Exhausted and Alone,

You are in the place many caregivers find themselves, especially after a few years of diligent and self-sacrificing full-time care.  This situation falls under the sixth Absolute: Never say, “I Told You…” Instead Repeat/Regroup.  The “I told you” that I am speaking of is when you find yourself gritting your teeth, clenching your fists, raising your voice over some little action that would never have bothered you before.  This is a definite sign to watch for that means you are already burned out. The person you need to regroup with is yourself. 


You truly have to ask yourself, “What would happen to him if I had a heart attack and died?”  With that in mind you need to know and accept that your greatest responsibility as his caregiver is to make certain you are still around to make sure his needs are met.  That does not mean you have to meet all his needs (or wants) by yourself.  You must have help as a caregiver, and it can be very difficult to accept help from anyone.  Think of it as what he needs: he needs to go to a senior center daily so he has friends like himself.  He needs to have other interests so that he isn’t so dependent on you.  Don’t ask him if he wants to go to the senior center and don’t worry if he doesn’t like it very well.  Sometimes it’s okay to let someone complain – did he ever complain about going to work every day? 


Enroll him in activities, get ready in the morning and just go.  When you get there, you can call the staff inside on the phone and they will gladly come greet him and take him inside.  If he absolutely won’t go with you, then ask a friend of his to pick him up and take him to the center.  There are also plenty of companion care services for hire (they are listed in the phone book) that can and help get him ready every morning and take him there.