Thursday 7 June 2018


Ask someone who cares for a loved one, "How are you?" Chances are, they'll answer "I'm fine", but if they were being completely honest, they'd probably confess, "I'm exhausted." And that's a scary, dangerous truth. It's dangerous because sleep deprivation has the same effects as being drunk. 

No wonder I lost my car insurance in 2004. They said I'd had too many minor accidents. It was the worst year of our lives. Nicholas' unrelenting pain caused him to wake every half hour. He needed us to reposition him for comfort on top of managing medications, seizures and tube feeds. No one was hurt in my long list of fender benders, but when I read a study showing that 100,000 crashes are caused by fatigued drivers, I felt plain lucky because I was one of them. It could have been so much worse.

But driving isn't the only important responsibility that is impaired by exhaustion. Caregivers have medications to give, food to prepare, bills to pay and care to coordinate. Sometimes we need to physically lift our loved one. These are tasks that could go seriously wrong, causing bodily harm and even death to the person in our care. Exhaustion is no joke.

I remember telling my doctor that I was worried about myself. I worried that I would make a medication error or that I would fall asleep behind the wheel with the children in their seats behind me. He didn't have any answers. There are no magic bullets for fatigue when caring for someone whose needs are 24/7.

The only thing I can suggest to fellow carers is to arrange respite if and when possible. And say 'yes' to every single offer of help. If you're lucky and can get a nap during the day, leave the dishes and go lie down. Do it for safety's sake. Slow down in the car and double check the medications. For tired caregivers, that's the best we can do.

No comments: