For the next few weeks, we are featuring some of our favorite blogs from years past. This entry was first published by In Care of Dad on September 29, 2011.
by Phyllis Kosminsky, PhD, FT
You know it’s true but it’s also so easy to forget: You have to take care of yourself, or you’re not going to be able to take care of anyone else. Face it – exhaustion, whether emotional or physical, is unavoidable when you’re caring for a loved one. So here are some things to keep in mind:
- Tell people what you need. If someone offers to pick up some groceries or make a run to the drug store, say yes. If no one offers, don’t be afraid to ask. Remember that everyone needs help on occasion, and if the shoe were on the other foot, you would want a friend to ask you for help if he or she needed it.
- Don’t blame yourself if you sometimes feel resentful about your caretaking responsibilities. Recognize that no matter how much love you have for the person you’re caring for, you’re only human, and as a human, you have limits! Talk about what you’re feeling with a trusted friend – someone who will help you remember that you’re a good person who is doing the best you can.
- Tell YOURSELF that you’re doing the best you can. Then repeat it a few times.
- Acknowledge the sacrifices you’re making in order to take care of your loved one. This is not about self pity; it’s part of recognizing why you may sometimes feel frustrated or resentful.
- It’s not selfish to reserve some time for yourself and your own needs. Admittedly, this can be hard to do, especially if you have an aging parent who wants you to be with them all the time and care for them the way they cared for you when you were a child. There may be times when you feel guilty about not being 100% devoted to caregiving – a little guilt is okay if it means maintaining some balance in your life.
- Not everyone can afford to pay for caregiving help – if you can, though, try to arrange for some respite time by having a visiting nurse or other caregiver fill in for you on a regular basis.
- Alternatively, delegate tasks you would otherwise do yourself, like food shopping or cleaning, to someone else who is willing to do them – for love or money!
- Have a family meeting to discuss what your parent may need now, what you anticipate he or she will need going forward, and what responsibilities people are willing to take on. Do this BEFORE you get to feeling so overwhelmed that it’s hard to discuss these things in a calm, matter-of-fact way.
- Keep track of your own mental and physical state. If you feel anxious or depressed on a regular basis, get help. Talk to a counselor, join a support group.
- Breathe. It may sound like an odd thing to remind yourself to do, but stress has a way of literally taking our breath away sometimes. Sit down, inhale slowly, exhale even more slowly, and just let your body and mind settle down.
Phyllis Kosminsky, PhD, FT is a clinical social worker at the Center for HOPE, Family Centers’ critical illness and bereavement support program. With offices in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien and New Canaan, Family Centers is a United Way, Community Fund of Darien and New Canaan Community Foundation partner agency that offers counseling and support programs for children, adults and families. For information, call 203-869-4848 or visit www.familycenters.org.
Photo by Robin B Langsdorf.