You may be married; or may be single. You may be a homeowner or may rent. You may be a parent or not. You have a career. You may be a business owner, an executive, an entrepreneur. You are a working caregiver. You are stressed out, tired and overwhelmed. You need a break. What can you do?
Sound familiar? For those of us who have been, are, or will be working caregivers to an elderly loved one, these statements are all too true ! How do we balance the juggling act of spouse, children, career, parents needing help, and still retain a sense of who we are?
Caregiving is stressful
This is a growing epidemic that most do not speak about; an epidemic that is rapidly overwhelming us all. Rarely do we hear complaining, because there is no time to complain, let alone time for one’s self. With this epidemic come symptoms of exhaustion, guilt, and loss of one’s personal life, just to name a few. The amazing part of it all is that it not only strikes women, but has increasingly become something men experience and rarely discuss
Male or female, if you are one of us, you recognize the signs in others. The look of worry, lack of sleep and stress. Even more apparent is the effect on one’s career. Your caregiving responsibilities may be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But, you could also be a long distance caregiver. Perhaps you are a part time caregiver, sharing responsibilities with a sibling, a spouse or your children. No matter the time involved, the obligations and demands on you are dragging you down.
Where to go for help
There are websites that offer support and tips for relieving the stress placed on 24 hour caregivers. But the one thing we must understand is that all the support, tips and advice in the world won’t do much good if we don’t listen and follow at least some of the advice offered. Caregiving is much like the instructions a flight attendant gives you before takeoff. They tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first, before trying to help someone else. That’s right – if you don’t take care of you, then two of you will need care. What a fine mess that would be!
If you work for a company, a good place to start is to ask your supervisor or human resource group if they have resources to help you. Those resources could range from referrals to non-medical home care agencies to a provider for an emergency response system. It could mean lunch time classes for you and your coworkers to learn about these products and services, as well as how to manage the myriad of other concerns such as financial, legal, and end-of-life issues.
Ask your church, temple, synagogue or mosque if they offer assistance and information on elder care. Perhaps they have a visiting nurse who could make an assessment of your loved one’s circumstances. Maybe you find a support group of people experiencing the same issues you are going through – it helps to just talk it out.
If you are stopping by Dad’s house everyday and a short visit turns into several hours, there are things that are not getting done in your life. Does he need to visit his doctor? Who takes him? Does Mom need groceries? If so, are you responsible for shopping? Are they eating nourishing meals if left alone? All these little things take you away from your job, your family and your life.
Consider hiring a non-medical home care company to help you out. You must take time for you. Even if they do nothing more than prepare and share a meal with your loved one, it will certainly ease your load. Go to the movies; go to the spa, do whatever makes you feel good, but get out of the house. And don’t feel guilty about it! This is necessary for your well-being and for the well-being of your loved one.
Everything we do in life can be viewed as a positive or a negative. Try to look at your caregiving duties as a positive in your life. Accept that your elder loved one didn’t ask to be in this position, but that it’s something that happens to everyone. This time together will give you the chance to really get to know them in ways you never thought possible. Ask them to tell you stories and learn from their experiences. But keep in mind, that even though you’ve heard the same story over and over, they won’t be with you forever. When they are gone, you’ll wish you could hear the story again.
Linda Thompson is the author of Planning for Tomorrow, Your Passport to a Confident Future, a common sense approach to life planning; and A Caregiver’s Journey, You Are Not Alone, a survival guide for working caregivers. Every Generation Needs a New Revolution, How Six Generations Across Nine Decades can Find Harmony and Peaceful Coexistence, is Linda’s most recent book. To find out more about Linda and her presentations and publications, visit: www.LifePathSolutions.biz