Four years ago my husband died after a long illness. I had been his caregiver and in addition to just missing him, I found that being alone with no one to care for was hard. About 9 months after he died I saw an ad for a companion in our local newspaper. An older woman who no longer drove wanted someone to drive her places and help with things like laundry and shopping. It was the perfect arrangement – until my client had a stroke. She lost her ability to be independent and her grown children asked me to become her full-time caregiver. I agreed to work Mon. – Fri. from 7 AM to 4 PM. It was only a month before the family started asking me to work weekends and stay overnight. Their requests kept coming and I always said yes because they had no one else to care for her. I’m exhausted and know that they are taking advantage of me. I should just quit but I love my client and don’t want to desert her. Are there any other alternatives?
~Overworked and Burning Out
Dear Overworked Caregiver,
Yes ― you are being taken advantage of! It’s time you stood up for yourself and set limits. When your client had her stroke you were already on the scene and it probably made sense to the family (and to you) to simply change your job description and increase your hours. It seems it got out of hand as time went on. Now is the time to set limits. Think about, and pencil in on the calendar the days and hours you are realistically able to work and share it with your client and her family. Let them know how fond you are of your client, but remind them you are only human and cannot keep the schedule you have been working. I would suggest to them that they contact a home care agency, like Family Resource Home Care, to get additional caregivers involved. As your client’s needs increase, it will be important to rotate the schedule and to have back-up care in the event you or another caregiver needs time off. Assure the family that there are other great caregivers out there. I think you’ll find your client and her family very receptive to your message.