Over the years, I have worked with countless families caring for ill loved ones. Spouses, partners, children and friends lend a hand after a loved one’s surgery or stroke. It was an honor to partner with people working together to help someone recover. I also witnessed my mother painstakingly care for my father in his final years of life. After a length of time, she had community support with various programs and respite. Sometimes our choice to say no is more difficult than others. Especially after knowing and loving someone for over sixty years.
Caregivers wear different hats. Some of us choose to go into the healthcare or service industry. Others are caring, compassionate friends. Some, as my mother, care for a family member in need. Each and every day, you care for someone without batting an eyelash.
When does caring for others become a problem?
Care giving becomes a risk to your well-being or others when two things occur. Caring for others becomes an issue when you have over-obligated yourself. You end up having an appointment book full of commitments and unable to fulfill them. You may have accepted too many over-time shifts in a row. Maybe you have worked so hard that your own health is in danger. Caregivers of ill family members or friends are too many to mention. Caregivers can work endlessly and not realize that they have missed meals or taken care of their own needs. Stress hormones coupled with denial can be harmful combination to anyone’s health.
Caring for others becomes a concern when your intent for any other reason except for helping out another person. Does that sound backward? So is an unclear intent when helping others. A misguided reason for helping others hopefully is not a conscious act. The subtlety sometimes lies deep with our subconscious. You might have been taught the message at a young age that you always help someone before you help yourself. Or you learned at an early age that helping people gave great rewards of love and attention from parents. Helping others without a conscious intent can be a false way to build self-esteem or confidence. Some people dislike conflict and would rather please others than to say no. Maybe it’s the fact that sitting alone in silence is painful. An unfocused intent does not mean you are a horrible person by any means. It can be the difference of making sure we care for ourselves (which is the big ticket) or not.
What can you be aware of as a caregiver?
Caregivers need to care for themselves, too. In other words, you can’t run a car without gasoline. Nurture yourself as much as you are caring for the person in need.
Be aware of your own issues. We all have them, big or small, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s never easy looking at our warts but so rewarding when you do. It’s part of self-care and personal growth.
Connect with others. It’s so important to ask and receive support from those around us. Sometimes support comes from another friend or family member. Sometimes help is in the form of a coach, clergy or counselor. Whatever it takes, never be a lone caregiver.
For over 25 years in the health care profession, Lisa Birnesser has studied stress relief techniques and have helped hundreds of people reduce stress in their lives.Lisa specializes stress management coaching by helping people do what matters most every day.