Five Gifts Caregivers Should Give Themselves
Caregiver survival starts with what I call the Golden Rule of Caregiving: “Do something for yourself so that you are able to do something for another!” Translated, if you take care of yourself, you will be better able to take care of someone else…and the opposite will hold true as well. If you do not take care of yourself as a caregiver, it will hurt your ability to take care of someone else. Lending help to the caregiver is important so that the caregiver is able, in turn, to lend their helping hand to an older person.
In the spirit of the holiday giving that is upon us, let me share with you five gifts that will help you as a caregiver in providing the care you do:
- Give yourself credit for the hard work you have done. You should thank yourself with as much heart as the person for whom you care. If you are not being thanked – as sometimes can happen in cases like dementia – then there are therapists who can help you to find the tangible appreciation for what you are doing for a loved one.
- Give yourself what you would give to another person whom you would meet seeing the needs you have. Some of this will start with a simple recognition that you have needs, too. Then, give yourself a bit of leverage from other people and resources on whom you are entitled to call. When someone offers to help, accept the offer.
- Give yourself a break. The solution to working at something that can be terribly demanding is not to place even more demands on yourself. Take time – perhaps through respite care – to be good to yourself in a meaningful way. That can be regular exercise, meditation, therapy, coffee with a dear friend or whatever restores you. (But it may be best if it is not something that isolates you as much as connects you to others.)
- Give yourself permission to be sad, angry, afraid or even resentful. Some of this is a natural response to an emotionally demanding job, but find an appropriate way to vent or redirect these emotions. And do not redirect them at yourself as too many caregivers often do. That can lead to depression or burnout or even aggression toward your loved one.
- Give yourself a voice. In part, that means that you have to talk through some of the issues you will face as a caregiver, issues like saying goodbye to your loved one. And you can use some of your voice also to advocate on behalf of your loved one to be sure they get the care they need from agencies and providers.
Having now given yourself all of these, you will be able to care for a loved one in as positive a way as you can. As you do so, remember one more thing. You do not have to be a perfect caregiver. You just have to be “good enough.” For more resources, check on-line with the National Family Caregiver’s Association.
Article by: Charlotte Bishop
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