QUESTION: I just moved here to help my aunt take care of my aging grandmother with dementia. My aunt doesn't think I'm cut out for it although I really wanted to help. I'm beginning to think she's right, though. This is the hardest thing I've ever tried to do. My personal situation makes it difficult for me to leave now, but I'm so overwhelmed I don't know if I can keep going. Is this normal?
ANSWER: You're right. Being a caregiver is one of the most difficult things you'll ever do. You'll find out what you're made of for sure. But the selfless acts that you'll have to do, including cleaning up after someone or getting told off by someone who never would have been rude before, will grow you into a more empathetic person. Chances are you'll be so glad you helped your grandmother one day.
Just so you know, yes, it's completely normal to feel overwhelmed. It's hard to imagine a caregiver that never questions if they can keep going. The important thing is that you do keep going.
Your aunt understands just how hard this job is, but that doesn't mean that she can't use your help. She probably wants to be sure you're not going to give up before she allows herself to rely on you very much. You will need to prove how committed you are to this.
As you move forward, allow yourself permission to laugh. Laugh at mistakes you make. Laugh when your grandmother says something funny, although maybe not in front of her. This job is torture without a good sense of humor.
Also, learn to think from your grandmother's point of view. She may no longer think about things like schedules, so rather than focus on how she's messing up the flow of your day, try to adapt to her flow while patiently directing her. For example, her day will always be better if she's been able to get nighttime sleep. Try to direct her towards that as much as possible by providing cues to get her sleepy at night rather than during the day.
There are so many more things to say, but you'll learn them if you just keep going. You're doing a great thing. You're not alone. If Cura can ever be of help to you, please let us know.