Caregivers spend a lot of their time worrying and feeling guilty. It’s the nature of the role. Questioning yourself is normal and yet, it’s also destructive. Nothing gets accomplished when you dwell in this place. If you spend your free time worrying and fussing about all the things you ‘think’ you aren’t doing, you need to STOP! Questioning whether or not you are doing a perfect job is a recipe for disaster. This is not a science, and I’m guessing that you didn’t receive a PhD in caregiving, did you?
Each situation and each patient differs from one to another. Each family has different challenges to overcome. And each caregiver is faced with a unique situation. Just for a moment, congratulate yourself that you are giving a gift to another human being. Congratulate yourself that each day you figure out how to manage what often seems like the unmanageable. If you can face each day with this attitude, your role is going to be much easier. Taking care of an elderly loved one is exhausting and emotionally draining, especially if the person is memory-impaired. As the primary caregiver, it is easy to get caught up in the need to be perfect…to do things perfectly…to make it all perfect. I did this, and truthfully, at one time or another, we all do this, but breaking the pattern of perfection is at the very core of what makes your role in the caregiving journey more manageable. The truth is that you simply don’t have to give the perfect shower. You don’t have to make the perfect meal. You don’t have to help someone perfectly. What you have to do is your best, and for most of us, that is NOT perfect. Begin today with the idea that perfection is off the table. Move forward with a clearer vision of the gifts that you are giving to your loved one.
Remember who you are. Remember who you were before caregiving. You may feel that your life is spinning out of control and that you have really lost your way, but buried beneath the surface, is the YOU who has always found a way. You have not changed. Your world has just been turned upside down. Caregiving can take over, but only if you allow it to. You miss your previous life. You miss your friends. You feel pulled in a million different directions. Your friends and some activities might have to be put on hold for a time until you can once again find the balance.
Go inside yourself and find your inner strength – the fortitude that has gotten through the most challenging situations in your life. Find that strength. You need it now because with caregiving, we forget to stay true to ourselves. This is the very reason why, across the board, caregiving wreaks havoc on our lives.
You need to get clear about what your role is here. You don’t have the ability to cure the aging process. You don’t have the answer to memory loss. You don’t have the power to fix what is wrong. Your role is to help make someone else’s life a bit more manageable. Your role is to keep the person for whom you are caring safe. Your role is to comfort and add some dignity to your loved one’s days. It is not to heal. It is not to play God. When caregivers create this kind of pressure for themselves, the role becomes overwhelming and completely unmanageable. You have to reach deep inside yourself and find the strength and the endurance to manage the caregiving journey with a balance of intelligence and emotion. It’s not one or the other.
Your other role is to help guide your loved one with love and kindness through the remainder of his or her life. The sooner you accept this role, the easier it will be for you to focus on the day-to-day humor (which definitely accompanies caregiving) and cut yourself some slack. We make things too important. We make situations too stressful. Try and be a little bit easy here. If your loved one is accustomed to seeing you jump every time some little thing arises, then that will continue to be the expectation. Your job is to change that over time. Just be with this journey. Forgive yourself the mistakes you will make along the way. Everyone makes mistakes. It is far better to let go than to stay focused on what you “think” you are doing wrong.
If you are really struggling with the caregiving journey, I invite you to reach out and ask for help. You don’t have to do this alone and sometimes talking to a professional can really help you. Don’t deny yourself the benefit of help. The Care Company is here for you. Kelly and I are here to help you.
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