As a caregiver, we all become part of an exclusive club that we would rather not have the privilege of holding a membership card to. Although, we don’t choose to become a caregiver, we choose to remain a caregiver and to do the best we can each day.
Some days are easier than others. Some days are harder and longer. Some days go by in the blink of an eye and some days look as if they will never end.
At the same time, we can become isolated, lonely and bitter. It is imperative to seek help either through support groups, friends, clergy, physicians, counselors or even online through websites offering assistance. Remaining secluded from family and friends can not only make the difficult path you are on harder, but can also lead to caregiver burnout and health issues of your own.
It can be extremely tricky to navigate a schedule that never seems to include “me” time. There never is enough time to exercise or meditate or to visit with friends. Bouts of guilt can take over if you bring in someone else to give you a reprieve, even if it is to just go get your hair done, go grocery shopping or to run errands.
On top of all of this, you sometimes catch yourself comparing your thoughts and feelings to those of other caregivers. You hear them say how much they are honored to be a caregiver and they are more in love now than they were before. Meanwhile, you are struggling to smile, to feel as if you even like the person you are now caring for that seems more like a stranger than someone you have known well.
Yes, we caregivers are in our own little (maybe not so little) club no matter how qualified we are. And on that note, let’s take a moment to remember we are all doing the best we can each moment of each day. Sometimes we will get it right, and sometimes we won’t. The important reminder here is we are all in this together, no matter how great, terrible or in between we are as a care provider. It isn’t like we thought about what we wanted to be when we grew up and chose to care for our loved one(s). We didn’t go to school to learn the best ways to prevent falls, or to get someone who doesn’t want to eat to do so. We aren’t adept at giving another adult a shower or knowing what to do when a new challenge comes along.
So, let us all be kind to one another. Let’s have compassion and empathy. Maybe we are not struggling today, but someone else is and to make them feel guilty or to make them feel worse than they already do is not helping but hurting.
There were many days when I was caring for Jim that I would go online to search out suggestions for whatever situation I needed ideas handling (there were many) and after reading so many posts about caregivers who seemed to be taking everything in stride and who didn’t seem to mind the overwhelming tasks at hand, I would feel worse than before I started reading.
I still see this. It brings back the feelings of inadequacy and failure. I don’t want any other caregivers to feel this way. You are doing the best you can and that is all anyone expects. Love yourself. Love your life. It may not be the life you had envisioned or wanted, but it is what you have right now and it won’t be forever. Take care of yourself so you can have the ability to continue to take care of your loved one and also so you can live life once you are no longer in this position.
Be aware of the things that bring you down and try to avoid them. Seek out support which sustains your strength and relishes your positives. There are positives. Maybe you need to search a little harder to find them, but they are there. And know you have done an amazing job and will continue to do so, without needing to compare yourself to anyone else. We each hold our own truths and what you think doesn’t matter, your actions are what matters.
We are all in this together my friends so let us all send words of encouragement and support to each other.