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Getting You Back

 

I try to teach my children as I was taught – to think of others before you think of yourself. I think most of us try our darndest to live this way, especially when it comes to caring for our loved ones. So what’s the problem? That sounds like a great philosophy.

Many caregivers aim to be selfless which can be destructive for not only themselves, but their loved ones. Caregivers need to be considerate, not selfless, and there is a big distinction.

Those who are selfless give everything they have to others. These caregivers give their time, energy, resources, and emotions away leaving little if anything for them. Of course selflessness comes with good intentions for the most part (martyrdom will be saved for another time), but it is destructive nonetheless. Have you ever lacked the energy to go for a walk or spend time with your friends? Have you ever been unable to be happy at a joyous occasion because emotionally you were somewhere else? When was the last time you saw your physician? Have you been putting off a weekend away?

Many of you probably see your life in those questions. Of course you have put off your evening walks, doctor appointments, and time with friends; your mother needs you.

Your mother needs you. You.

How many of you truly feel like you? Do you feel like a different person after years, or even months of caregiving? Have you lost a part of who you truly are?

You have been giving yourself away. And if you really want to care for your loved ones, it’s time to take some of it back. It’s time to get you back. It’s time to consider you.

If you are wide eyed and gasping right now, you’re likely wondering how you can give the same quality of care if you are being so selfish to take time for yourself.

My friend and caregiving expert, Dr. Amy D’Aprix, had this to say in our recent online chat about Techniques to De-stress from the Toll of Caregiving:

“I believe that care decisions should be made with consideration to how they impact the entire family – not only the older adult. A care decision that appears good for the older family member but burns out the rest of the family is not a good decision – it needs to be workable for everyone. Remember that the goal isn't that you, alone, provide all of the care for your mom.”

Stop and think about the goal. The top priorities are safety and quality of life. Everything after that is icing on the cake.

Perhaps you have siblings that don’t help as often as they should. It’s time to have a “come to Jesus” talk about them pitching in however they can. Clearly (and calmly – however difficult it may be) explain what your loved one needs. Dr. Amy recommends making a list of caregiving tasks that need to be done. Show your siblings the list and ask what they can do. If you need some tips on communicating with your siblings, check out The 50-50 Rule: Solving Family Conflict.

It’s also a good idea to keep that list and a calendar with you. You never know when a friend or someone from church will ask how they can help. It is time to stop thanking people for their kind words and offers and take them up on it. People want to help; they just don’t know what help you need. Pull out that list and calendar and tell them what help you need.

So what are you going to do with your extra time now? Take a nap, get your hair done, meet friends for lunch or drinks, do anything that fills your emotional, physical, or spiritual cup. This is you time! You are rebuilding you.

Likely the first few times, you will worry about Mom. It’s okay. Eventually, you get to a place where you know she is fine, and in the long run will be better because you are taking care of her caregiver.

I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on this blog, but if I were I would remove the selflessness and prescribe quality you time.

 

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. July 15, 2013 at 9:06 pm | Posted by Kathy Lyons

    My husband was just diagnosed in March this year and is doing well so far, but has other health issues to deal with also. He is 84 and has no desire to go on living. Lost his driver's license due to an accident last year and I don't drive so had to sell our car. It is SO hard to get anywhere. I have one friend who takes me to the grocery stores but that's the only place I ever go now. Other friends have kinda' gone out of the picture now and we have no family around except for our son, who is a bachelor, age 44, and doesn't like to be bothered unless absolutely necessary. We rely on a regional bus program to get to all his doctor's appointments. We miss going out for breakfast or lunch once in awhile or just for a ride, but it's never going to happen again we know that. Very depressing - I cry every night when I go to bed and pray. I need some support but where do I get any? I have no way to get to any support group meetings - the church offers no help at all. I get tired and stressed out doing everything, taking care of all his medications, appointments and forever picking up after him as well as doing all the housework, washing, cooking, grocery shopping, handling finances. Seems like it never ends. I don't even go visit a friend across the street without worrying he might do something while I'm gone - leave water running with sink stopper in (this has happened and I caught it just in time) - stuff like this. Sometimes I do lose my temper and then I feel so bad that I did I just cry and cry. I don't see my own therapist any longer as I can't get there and no one to take me - no time for just myself anyway. Not looking for sympathy, just stating the facts. Never thought our lives would end up this way.

    Reply

    • July 16, 2013 at 9:23 am | Posted by Cat Koehler

      You sound overwhelmed, Kathy, and I don't blame you. You are dealing with quite a lot. I'm glad to hear you have at least one person who can help you with errands. Perhaps, you could offer to buy her lunch before your errands - it would allow you to have a little more "off" time. You can also find some great support online. I encourage you to checkout www.facebook.com/caregiverstressrelief. Good luck, Kathy! You are doing a great job; just remember to try to do some things (even very little things) for you. Cat

      Reply

    • September 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Posted by Karen Winston

      Dear Mrs. Lyons, I am with my parents now to try to help take care of them since Mom has been taking care of Dad since a stroke in 2010 and I could not understand why she was so concerned about leaving any thing in the sink. Thank you for sharing your story because it has helped me to understand her situation. I don't know your circumstances but there are some resources available from some agencies if you qualify financially or if your husband was a veteran. You are both definitely homebound so you meet one criteria. If he is a veteran, speak with his doctor and social worker about what services are available. In the community, there are often services that are income contingent but in researching those there may be other things that you find out will help. Home Instead, Bayada, Professional Homecare Services, Visiting Angels are all good names of agencies to come in and help. It took some convincing for my mother to accept help but it is helpful to have someone else to come in and assist with personal care and light housework because it gives you time to breath and also someone else to talk to sometimes. Again thank you for sharing and I will pray that you get some help and your husband does not give up.

      Reply

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