You might have a friend who jokes, “I have to go to work to get some rest.” That might be a mom overwhelmed by a houseful of kids, or a dad fleeing some half-done remodeling disaster, or one spouse escaping the other’s bad mood.
For care givers, the routines of a job are a strange form of respite. Work tends to be a predictable, controlled setting with planned routines that take the edge off of unexpected stuff. Care giving can be so full of disorder and emergencies that the workplace is calm and refreshing by comparison.
At the end of the work day, numbers add up, stuff is on shelves, lights are off and doors are locked. Care giving seldom gives simple satisfactions like that.
Breaks – long weekends, vacations, whatever – actually create more work and more challenging work. They are not restful.
- Care giving goes 24/7. The lunch that was served at school or a day program is now yours to prepare, feed and clean up. There’s no support staff for spills and bathroom “accidents.” You’re it. And you are on your own trying to fill the entire day for a bored, anxious and confused person who is used to a team providing an array of activities.
- You live in the constant anxiety of the unexpected. You’re running out of ideas for stuff to do together, and the one in your care is getting anxious, making distressed growls. What’s coming? A medical emergency like a seizure? Or is it just frustration and you’re about to be on the bad end of a violent emotional meltdown? And there will be nobody there to help you when it happens.
- You’re chained. You’re on the toilet and you hear a crash and gasping down the hall. Or you spend a couple of minutes at a normal and necessary task like washing the dishes, only to walk out of the kitchen and find your child face down in blood from a seizure and fall. You wind up just sitting hours on end in whatever place allows you to keep a constant eye on the one in your care.
Tommorow: It’s no picnic for those in our care, either.