Here’s What I Learned From Being a Caretaker
Care taking can be an overwhelming when we think about it as “one who gives physical and emotional support to others”. The question of how to find the balance of taking care of yourself and caring for a loved one is posed to me on a regular basis. I’m not sure I have all the answers, so, I’d like to share my story with you in hopes it will give you some tidbit of insight.
First of all, it makes no difference who we are taking care of – the task of care taking drains a person’s energy. We love the people we are caring for, otherwise we would not be giving it our all.
The trick to staying healthy while care taking is:
- understanding a loved one’s needs,
- what’s manipulation,
- determine what you can handle,
- delegating what you can’t do
- accepting the boundaries set forth.
I believe keeping the boundaries was the hardest.
When I was care taking there was a fight going on inside of me – what I should be doing versus what I am capable of doing.
I was working full-time, raising a teenager, and the primary caretaker for a parent. That parent was my Dad. He was in his late 80’s and into his 90’s as I cared for him. Because of my work situation he moved into an assisted living facility and then subsequently a nursing facility.
The easy part was providing for his physical needs. I have four brothers, and all were willing to help, however, because I was the girl they put me in charge because to quote one of my brothers,
We are men, we don’t know what has to be done. You need to tell us.”
I consider myself blessed because most families do not support each other this way. They supported me and never said no to any request I had. Even with their support the task of primary caretaker was still difficult.
It drained my energy…
and my physical abilities…
I was stressed out to the max.
I had to do something, I couldn’t continue living under the stress.
I realized the real stress came from me not being clear about the differences of needs, wants, and desires, and about not accepting my own limitations.
As the stress began to take over and I was feeling exhausted all the time, I had to take a step back and ask myself a few questions. I had to approach the questions in total and complete honesty and make a pact with myself to honor my decisions and not waiver. The most important part of the with myself was to not allow the guilt and shame of the should’s to take over.
Here are the questions:
What are my absolute responsibilities to myself and/or my family?
Don’t feel guilty about prioritizing you versus your family. Without these absolutes you will not have the means to take care of anyone. This includes time to relax – yes, I said relax – if you get stressed out, overwhelmed and become ill, then who will be the caretaker?
Put the oxygen mask on yourself first then help others.
What are the wants, needs, desires of the person needing the care?
Make 3 columns, one for wants, one for needs, and one for desires. Complete your list.
Look at the column of needs – which of these can you fulfill, and which are fulfilled by others? Name the others.
Look at the columns of wants and desires – which of these can be fulfilled and which need to be given up?
Of those you choose to keep – who can fulfill these wants and desires?
Be ready, when you are caretaking and if it becomes necessary to move your loved one to a facility you will hear all kinds of horror stories, comments, and criticisms.
It’s okay to listen to what others have to say, but remember the pact you made. I had to remember my decisions are based on my particular situation and my needs. No one else lives my life so I was the only one who could and had the right to make the decisions.
Becoming a caregiver is a natural cycle of life. It doesn’t mean you sacrifice your entire existence to wait on someone. It means you help your loved ones by determining the best way they can be cared for and how you can enjoy and appreciate the time you have left with them.
I hope sharing my experience helps.
When you are a caretaker, it’s almost impossible to get away. My at home retreats are designed to help you take the much needed self-care that you deserve. Download one of my at-home retreats and get started today!