Being a caretaker is hard.
It drains you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
You spend your “off time” researching medications, supplements, aiding devices, diets, and exercises. Although that “off time” is seldom found because when you aren’t being a caretaker, you are working overtime to pay for those medications, supplements, aiding devices, diets, and exercise tools.
You are overstressed, overworked, and underpaid.
You will cry at the drop of a hat because there just is no more of you to give and you will spend the vast majority of “bedtime” lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, and hoping to God that you are doing the right thing.
It really is no wonder that caretakers experience an increased risk of depression, a higher risk of anxiety, an increased probability of developing a chronic health condition, and an elevated risk of suicide.
What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that these effects of caregiving don’t only extend to caretakers of humans, they also extend to caretakers of chronically ill or disabled animals.
Before I begin, anyone who doubts my dedication and love for Jet would be out of their mind. Anyone who doubts the love of anyone who acts as a caretaker for anyone else would be out of their mind. We care for those in need BECAUSE we love them.
With that said, despite the depth of our love, we all need respite care to step in once in a while.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking – “It’s not the same thing…”
And I’m not saying that it is.
Caring for a senior pet isn’t the same as caring for an elderly parent with dementia. Caring for a child with special needs isn’t the same as caring for a sibling with a traumatic brain injury.
Not only is every situation different, but everyone’s experience within every situation is different.
What these situations do have in common, however, is the effort put forth of the caretaker and the toll that it takes on them.
Whether you are changing a senior dog’s diapers, organizing pills, researching medications, looking up diets, investigating ingredients, making appointments with specialists…it really doesn’t matter who you are doing it for, the effort is there.
And no matter who you are, you need the breathing room, the lull, the momentary interlude, of respite care.
Whether we like to admit it, we are not supermen or women. We have a limited resource from which to draw. And when we spend all day drawing from that resource to “do” for others, well, sometimes we have nothing left with which we can “do” for ourselves.
When we have nothing left to “do” for ourselves, we get emotionally overloaded, we get physically tired, and we become less than capable of performing even basic functions.
But what can we do? What should we do?
The answer lies in respite care. It lies in our ability to say “I need help” and “I can’t do this alone”. It lies in nurses, family, spouses, friends, aides, petsitters. It lies in anyone who can safely give you an hour or two to replenish your soul.
Just don’t be afraid to ask.