WHY IS CAREGIVING SO HARD?
Because you care. You have been given a loving heart and you want the very best for the person or people that you are in your charge. Caring for another is fulfilling for you. But caregiving can bring a whole host of unwanted emotions to your life including sadness, loneliness, frustration, anger, resentment, and guilt. Those feelings are real and many caregivers are unsure about how to climb out of that difficult emotional place.
I know, because I have been there, too. I have raised three children, I was a caregiver to my adult daughter who had leukemia, the primary caregiver for my aging mother until she passed, and a certified hospice professional caring for hospice patients in facilities countywide like nursing homes, but also for young children in hospice.
Caregiving hit home when I became the round-the-clock caregiver to my other adult daughter as she recovered from a traumatic brain injury while simultaneously caring for her toddler and infant. Later, I was able to devote my care to my beloved husband when he became ill with a malignant brain tumor. Caregiving has been the central theme of my life.
I have learned a few things that have helped me manage the burdens and the honor of caregiving.
First, set boundaries. You are currently balancing all the details of your life and those of another person. You are bound to become exhausted if you say “yes” to helping when you are physically or mentally drained. And, let’s face it, caregiving is not for the faint-hearted. It’s easy to feel selfish for wanting to take time to care for yourself. But Brene Brown puts a new spin on it. “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”
I encourage you to have the courage to love yourself during this time. Set limits on what you are able to do then reach out to others to help you with the rest. Keep close to friends or find friends that will help you. If you need the mornings free in order to get your kids to school or just have a moment to yourself, it’s okay to give yourself that time. There are bound to be people that will step into the gap and take that time slot. If you need a break from providing meals, ask for your community of friends and family to sign up to bring them. Every responsibility doesn’t have to rest completely on your shoulders.
You’ll need to take better care of yourself than you ever have before. When a relationship that used to be reciprocal becomes one-sided, it can deplete your energy. Use your free time to build your reserves so that you don’t get fatigued or resentful. Take a walk in the woods or alongside the crashing waves of the beach. Listen to something inspirational or just fall in a tired heap on your couch as you stream endless episodes of your favorite show. You deserve to be cared for, too, and you can’t just wait for someone else to do it for you. Make your own needs a priority so that you will have what it takes to care for your loved one. Think about the safety speech that flight attendants give you before a plane takes off. They say, “Secure your own oxygen mask first before helping others.” They give this advice for a reason. You are only helpful to others if your own needs are already met. Love yourself so that you can love others well.