Family caregiver Jeannie Broussard shares her struggles as a caregiver and how she learned to rebuild her identity after caring for her husband and mother.

Interview with Family Caregiver Jeannie Broussard:

Weathering the Caregiver Experience

Conducted and compiled by Marcia Howland, Ph. D.

Published January 20th, 2016

Jeannie Broussard is a daughter, wife, mother and caregiver who graciously met with Dr. Marcia Howland and shared her caregiving story. Earlier this month, in a post titled “When I Felt Worn to the Bone,” Jeannie introduced us to her family and the season of her life in which she was the main caregiver for her husband, Bruce, and her mother, Louise. She continues the interview by allowing us to see her struggles and her peace.

... anger and resentment were sometimes difficult to contain.

“Even with doing the best possible, fatigue was still a factor. Just the sheer hours of time it took to care for two people in two locations required that some things did not get done. Looking back, I note some observations:”

Give credit to yourself for being a caregiver. Recognize your triumphs as well as the difficult days.

"Giving credit to myself for caring for my loved ones seemed a bit self-centered."

It can often be difficult to give yourself credit for selflessly caring for your loved one but be kind to yourself and recognize your triumphs as well as the difficult days.

As a caregiver, it is possible to not notice your own exhaustion, as busyness of day-to-day caregiving tasks can hide the accumulation of mental, physical, and spiritual

"Long-term busyness hid the accumulation of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual energy drain."

When caregiving, realize that the different diseases that your loved ones suffer from will require a different approach to their care.

"Different diseases required different approaches for each loved one."

As your loved ones draw closer to the end of life, it is common to encounter anticipatory grief and begin to mourn their forthcoming death.

"Watching my loved ones decline subtly accrued anticipatory grief of the loss to come."

You may feel emotional turbulence as a caregiver. Anger and resentment may crop up, but that is normal.

"Emotional roller coaster rides of guilt, anger and resentment were sometimes difficult to contain."

Not getting adequate sleep can contribute to changes in diet, lead to greater irritability, and and overall decreased level of equilibrium.

"Sleep deprivation contributed to appetite changes, irritability and disequilibrium."

As a caregiver, your presence, words, and actions encourages your loved ones; however, this constant outpouring of encouragement can be exhausting when attempting to also provide yourself with care.

"Efforts to encourage my loved ones takes energy while still attempting to provide self-care."

Safety-proofing your home as a caregiver can give you and your loved ones improved peace of mind.

"Home modifications added to safety and ease of care."

As you begin to rebuild your identity as a caregiver, it takes time to rebuild your once common daily routines.

"Isolation from routine required readjustment when the caregiving role was done."



Faith has always been an important aspect of Jeannie’s life and was a large source of strength while caring for her husband and mother. “My pastor shared the ABCs of life — these key words still guide me in finding a new identity beyond wife, daughter and caregiver:

A = Attention, Approval, Appreciation and Adventure

B = Believe, Belong, Become and Be serving

C = Chemistry, Connectedness, Circumstances, Consciousness and Choices

Jeannie continues by reflecting on the end of her caregiving journey. “After the death of two members of my family eight months apart, my grief was deep and broad. Some of my own health issues surfaced that needed attention. Suddenly, a brief time of immobility reminded me that caregiving can occur at any time. After my recovery, the determination to reconnect with old friends and make new ones kept me from isolating myself.”

... I feel blessed to have had the strength to be a caregiver...

“Though at times I was worn to the bone, I feel blessed to have had the strength to be a caregiver to two of the central people in my life. I hope my experiences will help others to weather the caregiving experiences and become whole again after.”

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About Marcia Howland

Marcia Howland, Ph. D. Weathering the Caregiver Experience

Marcia Howland, Ph. D.

Spiritual Outreach Counselor at Crossroads Hospice Charitable Foundation

Dr. Howland has been an active board certified clinical hospice chaplain for 15 years and is a renowned public speaker. She has dedicated her career to being an educator and resource person for spiritual care, caregiver support, end-of-life issues and bereavement. She is a valued member of the writing team at Crossroads Hospice Charitable Foundation.

References

  1. Abramson, Alexis and Mary Anne Dunkin. The Caregiver’s Survival Handbook: How to Care for Your Aging Parent without Losing Yourself. New York, NY: Berkley Publishing Group, 2004, 5-9; 16-20; 61-62.
  2. Hennessey, Maya. If Only I’d Had This Caregiving Book. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006.
  3. Mathieu, Francoise. Compassion Fatigue Workbook. New York, NY: Routledge, 2012.
  4. McLeod, Beth Witogen. Caregiving: The Spiritual Journey of Love, Loss, and Renewal. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, 1999, 123-130; 210. 219.

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