If you have been a caregiver longer than 24 hours, you have dealt with a grumpy patient. Those days when it doesn’t seem like anything that you do is right. The peanut butter is on the wrong side of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The dog won’t go out of the doggie door anymore. He just stares at the door and whines. The ice maker is full, but you repeatedly need to beat on the container so that it will dispense. You’ve had a rock in your shoe for a few hours, but you keep forgetting to bend down and take it out. Oh yes, and the one that you care for is grumpy.
Well, how dare them! I mean wouldn’t it be nice to have someone make your meals, clean your house, and take you places? What could possibly be the problem? They are no more short of breath than usual. There is no outward signs of an infection, no extra coughing. Why can’t they just be nice? Can’t they see that my day stinks too?
Can we all just admit that we’ve had that kind of day before? Okay, now for the dose of perspective. Think about the things that you are doing. Not so long ago, the one that you are caring for was doing all of them for themselves. There is a very real fear being lived out: the fear of losing independence. I do not know anyone that loses their independence because of their health that is excited about it. Having a grumpy day or two should totally understandable.
I still remember when my mom was not able to get her driver’s license renewed. She lost them because of her vision. She needed new glasses and cataract surgery, and because of that, she failed the eye exam. Mom was devastated. She knew that driving was becoming more difficult because of her worsening COPD, but until then, she still had her license and could drive if she wanted or needed to.
That one change in her situation caused a ripple effect. She always had to have someone take her to the grocery store, the drug store, the doctor or to visit friends and family. Eventually waiting for someone to take her places became so frustrating that she just began asking us to pick things up for her. She felt that she was a burden because she could not do the basic task of driving anymore. After she had the cataract removed, she talked about trying to get her license back, but by that time, her physical health would not have allowed it.
She talked to me many times about the things that she missed doing. She enjoyed cooking and baking, but as her condition got really bad, she was not able to stand for extended periods of time. She loved to take care of her family. She and my father helped us with my children as long as she possibly could, but even during that time, she would often be sad because she could not play with the kids like my father could.
When you are having a bad day as the caregiver, please take a minute to think about what your patient is going through. There could be any number of things causing grumpiness. If it is a lack of independence, do your best to give them back as much independence as possible. Most times, they just need to be needed too.
So, flip that peanut butter and jelly sandwich over to the right side, open the door for the dog, dislodge the ice in the container and get that silly rock out of your shoe. You can change that grumpy attitude with a smile and a little compassion.
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