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Saturday, October 20, 2012

When A Pet Parent Crashes


Many of us know how hard it is to be a caregiver to a human; but being one to a pet is twice as hard. There is no way to make the pet understand that having continuous accidents on the floor, carpet and/or bed, takes its toll on the one who has to clean it up. There is no way for them to know how overwhelmingly exhausting it is to give medication to them several times per day and still have to make sure they eat, when you know without you coaxing them, they won’t. It is a thankless job but one that we do because we love them. When they reach the age where they are technically over 100, they can no longer control themselves and it’s really not their fault. Yet it’s still very hard on us, there’s no denying that. You can only pretend for so long that it’s not disgusting to pick up diarrhea three or four times per day. Why won’t they just go in the box? Because there is a big difference between a human having IBD and a cat having it. A cat just doesn’t have the control that we do. I’ve heard of people going so far as to cover their floors or carpets with plastic to make the cleanup easier.

But all of this aside, one thing is certain; these diseases wreck havoc on everyone. There are only so many medications to treat these symptoms in pets and they don’t always work. When they do work, it’s only for awhile until their bodies get used to it. Basically it’s hell to go through this with your pet and although Alex didn't have these particular symptoms with her IBD, I am currently caring for a senior kitty that does. It’s difficult to say how to handle this when I’m going through it myself. After Alex died I thought I’d have many more years before dealing with a senior kitty with special needs. But it is what it is and as I said, because we love them, we do it. That doesn’t mean however that we don’t have the right to have our moments. We may be loving parents but we are not perfect and we do need to vent once in awhile.

It’s easy to say “take some time for yourself, do something for you, or don’t let the stress get to you.” That’s all well and good but there aren’t any days we can tell the kitty, “okay I want today off, you’re on your own”. There are no vacations and no sick days for us. One thing I will say is to find a good peer group to talk to. There are so many of them online and it’s never tough to find someone who is going through the same thing. Be aware also when dealing with another pet parent who is crashing that they need the kind of love and support that they are offering you. Telling them to “be strong because their kitties need them” is counter-productive and just feels like more pressure. While good intentioned, it’s not something anyone wants to hear. They want to know that it’s about them and they have your full attention. Tell them you understand and that you’re either going through the same thing now or you’ve also been through it before. They need to know they aren’t alone, not be reminded of what they already know. Just listen with an open heart and mind, that’s all most people need, want and appreciate. If you know someone who’s suffering from caregiver exhaustion, let them know you care.

For yourself, maybe start your own pet caregiver support group online or even in person. Giving others a place to talk about it could very well be great medicine. You’ll meet new people and make friends with fellow pet lovers. Most likely you need to stay close to home to give them medication several times per day. But try to get out occasionally. Take a short ride and enjoy some nice weather, just get out of the house; even if it’s for a short time. Get on the phone with a friend who’s been there, or someone you’ve met through your group, and talk about it instead of typing it. Sometimes hearing an empathetic voice can mean all the difference. We do choose this path and we choose it because we love animals. We know they cannot care for themselves and that’s the tough part. But if you’re starting to crash and you need someone, then reach out. You may be a super parent to your pet but you are in reality, after all, only human.

14 comments:

bunkab said...

Love this entry...so true. We do it and wouldn't change that for the world.

Tigger Tales said...

I love this entry too. Though I am not currently caring for a special needs pet, I can relate to having done so in the past.

IBDKitties said...

I have to admit, I am having a tough weekend with Midnight. Her colitis/IBD is really acting up and even with her medication she's having a tough time. We just love her so much, she's so sweet.

Brenda said...

Great entry and I can certainly relate. Taking care of two cats that have had IBD/pancreatitis for over 10 years is a job in itself. I'm starting to wonder if they are going to outlive me. Even though they have consumed my life for so long, the thought of them not being here brings tears to my eyes. It's all worth it!

WeBeesSiamese said...

Good article, and we have been through that type of stress at our den, well not us, our pawrents, MOL!
Its hard its sad and yet we still do it.
And then when we don't have to anymore, we feel other things that are almost as hard...but that's another story.

Sending you lot of hugs, and purrs, we know you need them a lot.
((((( ♥ )))))

IBDKitties said...

You're very right about that. Once we don't have them anymore, we'd gladly trade it and go back to doing this all over again. Every day with them is a gift. (thank you, I do need those hugs and purrs. Right back at ya!)
XXOO

Timmy Tomcat said...

My day to day life is one of supporting and educating RN's in the emotional and behavioral aspects of case managing elderly clients. In most, caregiver support is a major aspect of the plan of care. Simple things like taking a short nap, sitting quietly with a cup of an enjoyed beverage, listening to a favorite bit of music or reading a book are all things that can bring the mind away for a bit of respite. Loving those of Fur or none we must also steel against those naysayers who do not understand our labors of love.
A good topic that covers all beings and is not addressed enough in our society.

IBDKitties said...

Excellent comments and suggestions. Caregivers really do need major support. It should be classified as a full time job if you ask me.

Jeannine said...

You have once again hit on a topic that needs to be discussed. The pet is suffering and does need care and they didn't ask to be here or to be sick. BUT at the same time the pet parents / caregivers are not super humans and need help too both physically and mentally. I remember so well what this was like. My Romeo, bless his heart, would have accidents outside of his box and then there was the vomiting. There was also all of the coaxing to get him to eat and all of the changing foods to find something that he would even eat along with the constant pilling. He was sick and he never asked to be. He was my responsibility, he was my cat, he was my love and it was my job to care for him the best way I could. Yes, it was a 24/7/365 job but one that I did because I loved my Romeo. Even with all of the love I had for Romeo I was drained physically working a stressful job and then coming home to care for my cat. I was also drained mentally and no one could help me. My family saw what I was going through but I never got any help. I was a member of a support group that did help me and if it were not for them, I do not know how I could have done it. With all of that said, I agree that it is important to have the support and not just a pat on the back of "you can do it". You need 'real' support. If I had to care for a sick pet again I would gladly step up and take the responsibility. Our pets love us unconditionally so the least we can do is be there for them until the very end lovingly. Don’t forget to take care of ourselves in the process. We are no good to our pets if we too stressed and depressed.

IBDKitties said...

Thank you Jeannine and excellent comments! I know you were such a terrific mom to Romeo and I'm sure he appreciated every minute you loved and cared for him. It was draining as you said but we'd do it all again for them. The support is so important, I would not have been able to take care of Alex either without all of you to help me.

pcat said...

Great article, I haven't been through it myself with any of my fur babies, but with taking care of my clients pets I have walked into their homes with a mess and yes I did clean it up, have to to to get them to eat, even though they are not my pets I do it because I love them and care deeply for them...

I know one of these days my Xena will have some problems as she is getting older, sometimes she misses the litter box and I get a surprise.

And yes I do have an elderly Mom with dementia I help with her care so for me to get down time, sit have a good cup of tea, read and listen to music helps me..and I love to go to the Zoo so peaceful and relaxing.

Thanks for reminding us that we do need to take care of ourselves and if we need help to reach out for help.

IBDKitties said...

You've actually kind of already started with Xena's CRF in the special needs department. I know you have your hands full with your mom and your clients' pets. Glad you already do what you need to do for YOU.

Peg Keeley said...

In a situation with high needs kitties and high needs peeplz. Would not trade any of them for anything. Yes, I totally resonate with your article. There are days that there is just too much to do and I feel like I haven't done right by anyone. And there are the "I feel sorry for myself" days, too. But to lead my aging mom out to look at the flowers, for have my invalid Dad smile at a joke, to have Miranda get into bed with us purring or have our newest little Hope finally make eye contact for the first time and give a little meow of a hello.....these are the things we live for.

IBDKitties said...

So glad Miranda is okay after that fall! That's the last thing either of you need. And OMG little Hope is turning out to be a miracle kitty.