Taking on the Job
- Identify your support team. Who else shares the burden? Recognize that although we may feel alone, there are usually others we can lean on to a greater or lesser degree.
- Be realistic with yourself about what you can do – emotionally, physically, financially.
- Don’t hesitate to take advantage of available public or private support.
- Don’t let shame, pride, or a sense of martyrdom keep you from reaching out to others for help.
- Identify the different kinds of help you need yourself – not just meals or driving or respite, but a confidante you can cry to, a support circle of people in similar caregiving circumstances, friends online or on the phone as well as in person.
- ALLOW OTHERS TO HELP. Ask for help. It is likely that they won’t realize what you need until you ask for it.
Staying Strong and Healthy
- Pay close attention to your own physical and mental health, with regular medical checkups for yourself. Being a caregiver is a little like being pregnant – you’re “eating for two.” It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself.
- Exercise every day. Start small, “pretend exercise” when you can’t do your whole routine, but get in the habit.
- Find time for mindfulness meditation. Some find this quiet space by reading scriptures or praying. Quiet contemplation is essential for you to survive and thrive.
- Treat and talk to yourself as you would your own best friend. Take time to prepare your own meals, socialize with others, take naps, write in your journal.
- If you’re caretaking an elderly or terminally ill person, prepare for the grief process. Research grief therapists or grief groups. Grief comes to all of us – and what can feel crazy is likely a normal emotional reaction to loss.
- Let go of guilt at not being perfect as a caregiver or self-caregiver.
Letting Go When the Time Comes
Whether the “letting go” is of a beloved spouse to death, a wayward child to their own road, or the realization that you are simply unable to do the job anymore, realize that you will not and cannot be the caretaker forever. Accept the sense of relief as well as the sense of loss when your role changes or disappears. Prepare for what you will do – who you will be – when your caregiving is over.
Online places to look for support:
AARP, Utah Coalition for Caregiver Support, Mountainland Aging and Family Services, Utah Parent Center – Google online, as sites and resources change.
Here is an article on caregiving from the most recent issue of the APA Monitor.