I feel I am not doing my best to care for Gran, but I can't get motivated.

6 answers | Last updated: Oct 23, 2016
Esther fowler family asked...

How can I motivate myself to do better?

I have been the main caregiver of my grandma since Oct. 08, but as of Oct. 09 have taken over full time. I live with Gran and she required complete care. I get her in and out of bed, back and forth to potty chair, and do all cooking, cleaning, and shopping. My older sister is the legal guardian, but I am the main caregiver. I have done everything for the last 6 months, now we have hired a caregiver to relieve me every other week-end and she has been here 3x's now. The first two times were horrible, a new caregiver and Gran's dementia made for a rough week-end, but this last week-end was great and I feel I really got away and got rest. When I started this with Gran I was so motivated and determined to do everything I could to make her happy, comfortable, and well taken care of. Now, I have lost my patience with her, and once even lost my temper. I fall behind on housework and laundry. Some days I just cry. Some days I just take care of Gran's physical needs and hardly get anything else done. I am determined to keep this house and my Gran clean and well taken care of, but I am failing miserably. I need help, advice, anything...

Expert Answers

Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of Caring.com. He is board certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, has a master's in public health from the University of Michigan, and is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His current clinical practice focuses primarily on geriatrics. He has written and contributed to many articles and is frequently invited to speak on psychiatric topics, such as psychiatry and the law, depression, anxiety, dementia, and suicide risk and prevention.

It sounds like you are trying your best to do what you believe is right. You want to give your grandmother comfort and caring. You don't say much about why your grandmother needs "complete care" and you don't say much about yourself. When you are the primary caretaker for someone who is no longer able to live independently and you must take care of all her needs, it is inevitable that you will have bumps in the road. At times you will get angry because of the overwhelming nature of this job and at times you will get sad, in part because you feel for her and in part because of all you are giving up. I would suggest you be sure she is carefully evaluated by her physician to see if there are things that would make her more comfortable and decrease the stress involved with caring for her, and that you are doing what you need to do to get refreshed.

With regard to the first issue, your grandmother, there are many things a physician might find that can help you. If she is demented, for example, is she also depressed? Is she psychotic? Are there medical problems that may be complicating her course, such as a urinary tract infection or chronic pain or insomnia or poorly managed diabetes mellitus? All these problems and many more, have treatment options available that could improve both your lives. You also may need to step back, and with the help of her physician and your family think through whether it is in her best interest, and yours, for her to be at home rather than in a facility such as a community based residential facility where professionals could help her with her activities of daily living and you could visit and be her granddaughter again.

If you do decide it is in both your best interests for her to remain with you, then you need to balance the caretaking with activities that replenish your energy. It sounds clear that your devotion to her has kept you from getting enough time to yourself. It is critical that you take care of yourself or you simply will not be able to take care of her in the way you would like. You must have sufficient energy or like any of us, you will become fatigued, frustrated and impatient. It is critical that you get a reasonable night's sleep, ideally some exercise each day and time with peers and other family. You also need time to just simply relax. Each of us is different, but it is important that you learn about the balance that works for you, and then find ways to get there. It is also important that you do the best you can, but recognize none of us are capable of perfection. If you get angry or frustrated with your grandmother, apologize and forgive yourself. These are opportunities to step back and analyze what went wrong and then try to make changes. You may also find support groups helpful, perhaps through your local Alzheimer's Association. If you find that you are crying every day or there is nothing you seem to enjoy, I would suggest you meet with a mental health professional. Such an evaluation could help you learn whether you have developed a problem with depression and help you get proper treatment.

Community Answers

Anoymous answered...

Congratulations on the many months that you have cared for "Gran." I don't believe that you are lacking motivation, rather it sounds like burnout. I did not pick up on what you do for yourself; good self care is a key to keeping yourself healthy. When a person takes on such a huge task, such as caring fulltime for a family member, without relief regularly as well as vacation time, the odds are that you will become angry about not being able to get your own work done; but more importantly you have no time for yourself. Every person needs time for themselves. Get your hair done, leisurely window shop, go to lunch with a friend, and know that you are not alone. What is the reason for the guardian not assisting in the day to day care? To keep your sanity and do the best for "gran" and yourself give yourself permission to take care of yourself. It is OK to allow yourself some time, energy, joy, social outings, laughter, and give yourself a hurrah for what you have accomplished!! Please take time for yourself, if you do not take care of yourself you will not be able to care for anyone else. As well, you may start to feel resentment, if that has not happen already, then feel guilty about feeling resentful. It is a vicious cycle, you are human and entitled to your feelings. When I was taking care of my disabled daughter, and trying to work 2 jobs and take care of my disabled husband, it was a receipe for diaster. So take care of yourself, it sounds like you need a vacation just to recoupe you energy. The desire or "motivation" will come back when you are refreshed. Good Luck!

Jboone1408 answered...

You don't mention what community you live in, but here in Minnesota we have an option called Adult Day Centers. Most of these centers will come and pick your grandmother up and take her to the day center for the day. You could enrolll her for one day of the week, or all five. These centers offer stimulating programs, exercise and socialization as well as bathing, trimming toenails etc. Many of my clients (I am a geriatric home care nurse) utilize these centers for respite. The first few times she goes, it will be hard-just as it was the first two times you had an outside caregiver come. Just prepare yourself for it and know that after a week or two she will adjust. If that doesn't work, you mentioned that you have tried the caregiver on the weekend with success, how about having someone come in every morning to get her up and tend to her personal needs. This would give you 2-3 hours every day for respite and take some of the physical care burden off of you.

Murphyscharge answered...

Hi. I just read your question. I can relate to having a lot of stress & things falling apart at the seams. I call it my life. Fortunately, I've always had a lot of confidence in God. I've struggled with finding motivation too. One thing that helped was to realize all my stress resulted in depression. I found a temporary help with counseling & medication. Unfortunately, my life didn't co-operate, it got worse. I have found several helpful solutions. I started out by looking up inspirational quotes & affermations. They do get me going, but don't always keep me going. What I have found that works is replacing one habit for another. I was in the habit of avoiding & pulling back from anxiety. I was preoccupied with it, which took a lot of my energy as well as making me feel even worse. My plan of attack is very simple. I pick one thing to work on & do something small about it or for a small amount of time. Say 10 or 15 minutes. I keep this up until it seems too little. I fight the urge to make it an hour, and instead add on another 10 minutes. My plan is to make it a habit. Habits are easy, we do them without thinking. How many people can brush their teeth & plan the evenings dinner at the same time? Also, habits are hard to break. So once you have the habit, it's yours. It even feels like something is "missing" if I don't do it! This may sound lame, but I feel better doing at least something for a while, and then something more, rather than being frozen with anxiety & not doing a thing for months! I hope this helps, even a little. : )

Homeinsteadclt answered...

I want to second Ken's response. I also want to add that it's not uncommon for taking care of an aging parent to be difficult, and it's natural to feel a little overwhelmed. That's where services like Home Instead come in - our professional caregivers can take some of the burden off of children's shoulders, so they can focus on just being with their loved ones.

Caringdenise answered...

Hi, Thanks for sharing your caregiving story and asking for help! Following up on the many wonderful suggestions you've received, here are some resources on Caring.com that you may find helpful:

Caregiver Wellness -- strategies and tips for taking care of you while caring for others

How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

Online Support Groups for Caregivers

Adult Day Care in Your Area

Tips for Caring for a Loved One with Dementia

Tips for Caring for a Loved One at Home

You also mentioned that you'd hired a professional in-home caregiver. That's a great way to get you some respite. When you have a moment, please consider adding a review of the agency you hired to help other families in their search for caregivers: Rate Senior Care Providers

Thank you!