Senior lady on left with her head against younger family member on right.

First published in the San Antonio Express-News

Follow up to: The Challenges of Care-Giving, and Elder Abuse and Domestic Violence  both by Audrey DemmittRN.  And here is another Resource for Elder Abuse from sixty and Me

Becoming a caregiver for a loved one changes your relationship and changes your life. In the beginning you are filled with compassion, concern and determination to do everything you can to help. You even welcome the opportunity to show just how much love you have for that person. If it is a spouse or parent who is going blind, you dedicate yourself to being their eyes. You take over the driving, the cooking, the paying of bills, and you’re happy to do these things, because you love them.

Gradually you take on more and more of the household responsibilities. Your loved one, in turn, becomes frustrated, angry and feels helpless. Perhaps they settle into a state of idleness and depression and don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. Or perhaps they become bossy and demand that you do everything for them – take them shopping, to medical appointments, read their mail, and look up information for them. Their demands become intrusions on your personal time. You’re afraid to leave them alone. So you stop going places you used to go. No more volunteering at the church. No more afternoons playing bridge, golf or going bowling. You are handcuffed to the needs of your loved one.

To make it easier for them, and for you, you take charge. You make more and more of their decisions for them. You decide what they should wear, when and where they can go out, even what they will eat.  You become their boss.

What in the beginning was an eager loving commitment for you has now become a strained relationship, a 24-hour nonstop obligation which saps your energy and erodes your good humor. Soon you find feelings of resentment and regret creeping into your consciousness. You sense that the person you knew is not the person your loved one has now become. You’re angry and upset that they have contracted this disease and at the doctors for not being able to cure it. What’s more you feel guilty over your feelings of resentment. The relationship has become dangerously negative.

I know of more than one case where loss of vision in a husband or wife has resulted in divorce, while with others, the relationship has become so tense and unpleasant, separation might be a happier outcome.

So what can you do to preserve a loving relationship when one of your parents or your spouse experiences a serious disability such as going blind? First of all, recognize that as a caregiver you can help them most by not trying to do everything for them. You can encourage them to do things for themselves, to be as independent as possible. With the help of a professional Orientation and Mobility specialist they can learn how to get around outdoors on their own and how to safely do things such as cook and clean, read their own mail, take their medicine on time, etc. A visually impaired spouse or parent is able to be more independent than you realize. Vision rehabilitation programs, specialized adaptive aids and appliances and independent skills training are offered by both state agencies and Lighthouses for the Blind.

It is true that vision loss can be devastatingly traumatic to a person’s ability to be independent and to participate in ordinary activities, but it is also true that “There is, for sure, life after loss of sight.”

One thought on “THE PITFALLS OF BEING A CAREGIVER, Guest Post by Larry P. Johnson

  1. Thanks Larry, very well said. I too have seen this dynamic play out too often between spouses. It is difficult to witness, knowing it doesn’t have to be this way.

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