Those of us who devote our time and efforts to caring for an elderly friend or family member know just how draining that task can be — even when it’s done with great love. You’re walking a tightrope of allowing your elder the maximum amount of control and personal power while making sure he or she is safe and secure. You experience the emotional rollercoaster of the good days and the bad ones, and the stress of worrying when you’re not present.
And you know that when you’re feeling exhausted, you’re not giving your best to your loved one. How to bring everything back into balance?
Right now, with the holidays behind you and the New Year stretching out ahead, is a great time to begin. And if you enjoy the idea of making some resolutions for the coming year, we’ve got a gentle suggestion for you — resolve to take better care of yourself! Here’s how:
Let go of old resentments
You may have long-standing emotional issues around your relationship with your parent or other family members. A simple remark from a sister or brother can trigger feelings you thought you’d outgrown years ago, and old power dynamics with parents can still come into play despite age or failing health. Letting go of these feelings can be tough, but it’s well worth the effort.
Keep in mind that you may not be able to resolve old problems. Instead, work to forgive and move forward in love. Anger and negativity are poison! Let go of those feelings and become healthier in mind and spirit.
Ask for what you need
Many times we feel that we’re the only ones who truly care; that others are happy to let us do the heavy lifting while they enjoy the occasional visit with elderly parents and grandparents. This is probably not the case!
Other family members may not be keying in to the situation — especially if you’re the type of person who believes “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” None of us are mind readers. If you need help, ask for it. If you need a day off, arrange it. If you need someone to make dinner or take your loved one shopping, make it happen. Your family might just be waiting for you to ask.
Find ways to ease your mind
Sometimes the biggest moments of stress are the times when you’re not with your loved one. That’s why it’s so important to establish ways to ease your mind and keep your loved one safe when you’re away.
Make sure your parent has important telephone numbers readily available. Keep your voicemail clear so messages are properly saved. Set up an emergency response system so your loved one can get help immediately if needed. Consider working with a trusted home health care provider to give you some extra support.
Invest a little time in yourself
Family caregivers are very likely to make themselves their last priority. Don’t fall into that trap! You are a worthy person deserving of personal fulfillment outside of your caregiver role. Allow yourself the time to recharge your battery by doing a few things that bring you great enjoyment, whether it’s a night out with friends, a movie at home with the kids, or a relaxing massage at a day spa.
Please reject any feelings of guilt you may have about taking care of yourself. Instead, seek support wherever you can find it — in a support group, in your spiritual practice, in your friends and your family. No one knows how much precious time we may have with our elders. When you’re well rested and free of negative feelings you’ll be able to devote better, more meaningful time to your loved one, and enjoy that time together to the very fullest.