Caregiver heartachesCaregiving has its blessings and its challenges. Some of those challenges are heartaches. Using the Harlan Howard song “Heartaches by the Numbers” as a guide, let’s consider some of them.

Heartache number one is when you left me…

When you become a caregiver, something leaves. As a mom that is consecutive hours of sleep. (Most of you will agree with this on the newborn end. Some will also experience the interruption of sleep during the teen years when you are getting children to and from events outside the school day, trying to get them to stop studying and go to bed, or they get home late from work.)

Short-term caregiving may also result in sleep issues – needing to administer medications, needs to monitor temperatures, a sage needing assist getting to the bathroom.

We might also give up a regular exercise routine because it doesn’t fit the schedule of care. Maybe you give up a social activity. It might be the loss of a “healthy” parent or partner that we have depended on.

Face it, when you take on caregiving something generally has left (or changed) from the way you have known it.  

Heartache number two was when you come back

I can see you shaking your head “no”, but hear me out. Sometimes caregiving is a passing event.

For example, your parent has surgery and needs you to drive them to doctor visits for a few weeks as well as assist with some household tasks. They finally get the ok to return to their previous activities.That is until something else happens. Maybe this time you provide a little more or a little longer care.

Or, someone is diagnosed with cancer. You provide the support and care they need during treatment. They get a clean bill of health. If you are less lucky, the cancer returns.

My parents would add that sometimes a grown child returns home. (There are reports of this happening more frequently in the US maybe even with grandchildren and pets in tow.) Yah, you love them, but now you have to set new house rules, share your space, ….

You are glad you can be supportive, but repeats can mean heartache. 

Heartache number three was when you called me

Caregivers are called upon 24/7. Few take regular respite breaks. Some parents give up date nights.Maybe it is stopping a social group to provide care. There are many shapes and colors to how caregivers respond to the call. While they do so out of love, it is still heartbreaking to get the call you are needed as a caregiver.

But the day that I stop counting, is the day my world will end

None of us wants heartaches. We also cherish those in our care. Whether the heartache ends because the issue resolves or because of death, that part of our life changes.

When the caregiving stops there is a void. It can be difficult if not impossible to jump back into “life as it was before”.

8 ways to support during the heartache

  1. Be aware that they may have a heartache.
  2. Allow them time to express them. Also, remind them of the good times.
  3. Call them.
  4. Include them when you can.
  5. Take a meal, a bouquet of flowers from the garden, share a favorite movie or book.
  6. Send them some personal mail.
  7. Offer to provide an hour or two of care so they can take a break.
  8. When the caregiving ends, rinse and repeat items 1-6. Invite them to go places with you.


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