Feeling a little lost these days? Considering the whirlwind days (often beginning before sunrise and ending after sunset …), a family caregiver can easily devote much of his/her own time, energy, and resources to helping an aging loved one and, in the process, lose much of him/herself. Caregiving days are anything but typical and can stretch you in many different directions, but they are similar in the fact that they are often busy and can include any number of caregiving tasks. Considering the amount of work involved, it’s easy to get lost in caregiving but please be careful!
Losing yourself in caregiving typically comes as a result of succumbing to common caregiving beliefs including that it is your own responsibility and/or obligation, that no one else could provide better care and support than you, that your aging parent could not function without your constant care, that no one will completely understand your situation, or that there are no resources available to you. While you will play an integral part in the relationship – the hub in the wheel, as it were – you must remember your own health and well-being and will completely deserve your own attention as well. Step back for a minute to honestly evaluate how you are doing and/or feeling lately … have you felt more tired? Impatient? Frustrated? Depressed? Stressed? It’s a good bet that these negative feelings are connected to your overworking yourself as a caregiver. If you want to confirm that may be suffering, book an appointment to see your doctor. You will have a lot on your plate right now and managing it all can prove to be overwhelming. But what happens to a machine if you work it too long or too hard? At some point, it will break down and lose its ability to work properly or effectively.
Now that you have recognized (or have been told by a medical professional) that you are not feeling yourself, it is time to do something about that (and don’t delay doing so …). One very effective answer is to take your own caregiver respite – allow yourself some personal time away from your daily caregiving responsibilities to break away and find (or once again …) find yourself. As a former co-caregiver for both my own parents, I admittedly was a slow student when it came to taking respite; however, I did learn the importance of taking regular breaks away and am now a strong advocate for doing so – you can do this and you deserve to do this.
As part of your own caregiving days, ensure that you include time to care for yourself. Sure, you can continually multitask (and may be somewhat successful doing so for the short term …) for a period of time, this is not something that you can realistically expect to do on an ongoing basis. The number of balls that anyone can continually juggle simultaneously in the air is limited … one, or more, of those balls will eventually drop. If one of those balls is your own health, you can be in trouble and realizing this may come too late.
Losing yourself in caregiving is quite common and it can prove to be dangerous. For your own sake and for the sake of others, take regular respite breaks to, once again, find yourself. You are worth it!