Meet Crystal. She has two grown children who are out of the house. She has two jobs: one as a waitress and bookkeeper for a prominent restaurant, the other as the main caregiver for her husband Randy who had a stroke 2 years ago.
One job is paid. The other is not.
Crystal can’t tell what is really keeping her up at night. Is it the hormones? Is it stress and hyper-vigilance listening for her husband to call for help? Only when the hot flashes come can she attribute it specifically to menopause. She has help when her kids are home for a weekend visit and she can get a shower, sleep a little more, and ask them to go to the store for her. But there isn’t much more.
She’s worried. She’s depressed. She feels alone.
Family and friends seem to have scattered. They were very kind to offer help, and some did help when Randy first got out of the hospital. But they all got busy with their lives and there seemed to be an awkward kind of tension in talking.
Randy is 15 years older than Crystal and the love of her life. It’s hard. Every day it’s hard.
Right now, according to the American Society on Aging (ASA), there are 65 million people who are providing unpaid care to chronically ill, disabled, or aged family members during the course of any given year.
The value of this unpaid care? 375 billion. Dollars.
Would you be terribly surprised to know that these caregivers are primarily women between the ages of 40-60? And of course, they're right in the heart of a major hormone change that affects moods, their physical bodies, and more: menopause.
In the US, November marks National Family Caregivers Month, and though it’s challenging to read about and think about women like Crystal, it’s even more challenging to live it for those in that role.
Let’s check-in about a few simple things you can do right now to increase and improve incoming support.
If anyone's asking what you want in terms of gifts, you'll be doing them a favor by sharing specifically what you would love and could use.
A few ideas might include support around taking breaks or getting respite care:
What else sounds good to you? What have you been missing or longing for, that another person might be able to assist with?
With the added stress of the holiday season, joyful or not, you may experience some major flare ups of menopause symptoms: hot flashes, depression, anxiety. You may skip "irritability" altogether and proceed right to rage.
Extra support by way of a counselor, therapist, or trusted friend, plus more self-care, will help you navigate and process feelings, fears, and the ups and downs of this tricky business as well. The holiday season may spark additional, or old, feels that you just didn't see coming.
These ideas may spur new inspirations for you and your family and friends. Talk about what’s going on. Women who are workers and caregivers who are going through menopause, you have an awful lot on your plates (plural!) right now. It's a time for more support and care, not less.
Are you a caregiver and struggling to balance helping others and getting yourself through menopause in one piece? Join the conversation and share ideas with other women who are walking the same path: join our community forums.