What It's Like to Be a Caregiver
'You Don't Have to Be a Saint.'
When you're responsible for the needs of a loved one 24 hours a day, it can be easy to forget your own needs. But it's important not to. Caregivers have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and stress than other people.
"You don't have to be a saint. You can want him to be OK and want a life, too," Freeman says. "You have to look after the person. But reserve time for yourself, too, and don't feel guilty about it. You can't just give everything you are to somebody."
It might not be easy to admit you need a hand or a break. Hanberry struggled to let others help because she was worried they wouldn't do things the way she does.
When she finally let go, she felt the benefits right away. "The times that I have gone out, maybe to the theater with some of the girls, it's so refreshing that I can't wait to get back to him," she says.
Self-care also includes getting emotional support. When Freeman could no longer care for her husband and transferred him to a nursing home, she didn't expect to find so much comfort in the other family members there. It was helpful, she says, just to know other people in the same situation.
But to get that support, you might have to seek it out. "It really surprises me how few people have reached out to ask me how I am," McKechnie says.
The Silver Lining
While it may be easier to see the costs, there are rewards, too. Hanberry draws inspiration and encouragement from her husband. "Between his teeth, his hand, and his foot, he does a lot before he asks for help," she says.
In his motorized scooter, and using just his left side despite being right-handed, Jack refurbished a rundown flatbed trailer and sold it. He bought all new parts, painted it, and only got help with the electrical wiring.
"He could have sat here and dwindled away to nothing for 15 years, but he has always been very motivated, and that's been heartwarming to see," Hanberry says.