Many people find themselves in the position of caregiver at some point in time. This can be for joyous reasons like having a baby; or it can be for tougher reasons such as a loved one’s illness or physical impairment.
Unlike parenting, when caring for a loved one because of illness or impairment, there’s no standard life stage for this kind of situation. It can impact the young, middle age or older population alike. It can be brought on by an accident or illness. Initially, due to the shock and immediate needs, it’s all hands-on deck. Friends and family come out of the woodwork to lend a hand and check in with the caregiver often.
Unfortunately, when the illness is chronic or progressive, after the initial concern, people go back to their own lives. This isn’t because they don’t care; it’s often because they simply need to take care of their own responsibilities. When you’re the caregiver, you may find that you’re often alone with all of it. This includes (in part): the medical appointments, coordinating the health insurance, the financial distress when insurance doesn’t cover the medications needed, the time off of work needed – the net result being a decrease in income.
All of that doesn’t even begin to take into effect the emotions – not only the emotions of the one who is sick or your own emotions as the caregiver, but also the emotions of those who are not there for the day-to-day but still are important. You get to deal with it all; the guilt, the rage, the sadness, the joy.
For you, the caregiver, it’s easy to get lost in the other person’s illness. It’s too easy to get caught up in their medical, emotional, physical and spiritual needs. Throughout this, it’s just so easy to lose perspective of what “you” need to live with all of this. It’s easy to forget that you used to take that yoga class across town, that you used to take some time for yourself on a Saturday to window shop, or to try a new recipe that nourishes your soul and belly. Can you take the time to re-connect with that part of you – to take that time to care for the you, the caregiver, and the other person? It’s so important that you lean into this caregiving relationship without resentment. Taking care of you will take care of that as well. When you take that opportunity, you give the gift of bringing your best self to your loved one. To be able to pour from a full cup, instead of the droplets that are left.
For you, the friends and family who want to help when you are able, ask what you can do. If nothing is requested, come to the table with options. Can you take over any level of care for a short period of time? Can you give the caregiver the opportunity to take some time for themselves? Can you take the caregiver out for an hour of reprieve?
From my conversations with caregivers, I hear a lot of gratitude. The love and the joy that gets overlooked during the “normal” day-to-day becomes cherished. During this time, if you’re the caregiver, don’t forget to give to yourself along the way. You’ve got important work to do, and you’re worth it.