Caregivers Share their Stresses and Joys

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Jacquelyn had finally snared her dream job as an assistant to a television writer in New York City. Riding the subway one Saturday night, she got a call that changed all that.

Her mother, who was living with her grandmother, was in trouble back home. Jacquelyn returned to find rotting food in the refrigerator and a house on the brink of foreclosure for past due mortgage payments. Her mother had Alzheimer’s disease.

Jacquelyn said she had to quit her job and never returned to New York. “Caregiving requires a restructuring of who you are,” she said.

Undervalued, stressed, exhausted, guilty and even resentful – these are some of the feelings that unpaid caregivers, who are mostly women, experience on the emotional roller coaster they ride every day. In a survey sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Otsuka, two-thirds of caregivers say it is the most stressful job they’ve ever had. 

The joy came, Jacquelyn said, when her mother would dance in public when she heard music. At first, she was embarrassed but after awhile that no longer mattered.

She is one of three women who shared their fears, happy moments, and the mental health challenges of caring for a parent in a set of videos, also by Otsuka, which has developed a drug for treating agitation from Alzheimer’s.   

Our readers who are caregivers might find comfort in hearing from others about what they’ve gone through. (Warning: watching the videos requires sitting through a few seconds of annoying ads before being allowed to skip over them.) 

One undercurrent in their stories is that caregiving is a lonely job. Even when others are supporting them, the person with the primary caregiving responsibility carries most of the weight.

Jessica, who is in her 30s and constantly under stress taking care of her mother, came to appreciate the help she received from the women at her church and the people she met on social media who understood the stress she was under.

She also realized she needed to take time for herself. To be able to help her mother, she said, “you have to have a life.”

Finding this time has been very difficult for Bailey, who cares for the three people who live with her and depend on her – her daughter, mother and father. “I leave myself hanging to make sure everyone else is okay,” she said.

That sounds like a mantra other caregivers can relate to.

Squared Away writer Kim Blanton invites you to follow us @SquaredAwayBC on X, formerly known as Twitter. To stay current on our blog, join our free email list. You’ll receive just one email each week – with links to the two new posts for that week – when you sign up here.  This blog is supported by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.