The Enlightened Caregiver
My Support Network
Defining the Challenge
We enter into new relationships with the sum of all of our experiences. So will the new Caregiver.
You may think that you are always right, that your decision is final or that you know everything about what is best for the person you are now caring for.
Maybe some laden emotional baggage has followed you into this new relationship. Maybe you are upset because you are the one who got stuck with this job and not your sibling.
Sometimes Caregivers are the cause of some of their challenges and they are not even aware that they are doing it.
To help you become Empowered not Overpowered in your new role will be the ability to separate any past experiences, any preconceived notions about someone and any negative attitude from interfering with it.
Relationships will always have two points of view. When you are aware of this and by shedding a little and weight out of your emotional baggage, it will help avoid encountering some of the challenges you'll have to face.
Let it Shine!
An empowered Caregiver must be able to assess and overcome many challenges including the ones they themselves may create.
First of all, stop being angry at the situation. You are now the Caregiver so accept it and move forward. By holding onto these emotions while trying to perform in this role is unproductive and destructive. They will only lead to more stress and you will end up becoming another challenge for yourself to overcome.
The key to success will be learning how to overcome emotional challenges as you move forward in this journey with your aging parent or loved one.
You may be asking yourself how did I get stuck as the Caregiver? Honestly, there isn't any good answer for this - it just happens. Now that it is you, being able to move forward there may be other questions you'll need an answer to; like am I going to have to do this on my own?
If you already know this answer, then let it go and be ready to move on knowing who you will or will not be able to rely on to be on your Care Team.
A Mile In My Shoes
There is two sides to every story. You know your side but what you don't know is theirs! So what exactly does this mean?
Circling back to this as a new relationship. Not only is this a new role for you, this is a new role for the person you are caring for also. You may be dealing with your own emotions, but what do you think your loved one is feeling right now? Put yourself in their shoes.
The key to success of the Caregiver role will be your ability to understand your loved one's point of view. They are in a vessel that is now unfamiliar to them. Their body doesn't move the way it used to. They are afraid to move in it. They may have a constant fear of falling. They are unable to control it. They still want to do things on their own but their new body won't let them.
Its not you. It is the sum of all of these emotions which they are experiencing that is much of the frustration the Caregiver senses throughout this relationship. Most of the time they are not angry at you but rather they are wrapped up in their own world trying to figure out how did they get stuck with this. Sound familiar?
Words of Encouragement
Remember when your parent helped you through that situation with the school yard bully or that mean math teacher? Well it is coming full circle now. They were there for you then by offering encouragement so you could be brave enough to get up and go back to school the next day. This is what your loved one needs from you today.
Your positivity and words of encouragement will go a long way. Therefore by learning to let go of some of your angst will allow you to become more astute to the scary world your loved one is in now too.
The approach is very simple: observe - evaluate - then execute.
"Hey Dad I understand that getting out to the deck was easier before. Maybe if we use the transport chair it will be easier to get you out there."
"Hey Mom I understand those stairs are getting harder for you so let's look at some alternative showering options."
"Dad, I know you enjoy your caregivers company so let's have her help you with (this task.)"
"I know Grandma that you used to be able to do that on your own, but maybe if we try this will make it better for you."
"Hey Dad, maybe if you use this cup cozy you'll be able to grip your favorite mug better."
Many times Caregiver givers complain about their loved one being difficult, stubborn or constantly fighting them. It is not you. They are not expecting anything from you. They really do not want to rely on you either. However, by extending a little kindness and offering constructive solutions that help them to better navigate from their new vessel will improve the working relationship between the two of you into a more positive one.
Stress Management Consultant
Why is it necessary "to first give care to the caregiver?" My sister and I never thought about putting ourselves first while in the role as a Caregiver; but we should have. It might have changed the course for my sister.
Finding Debra is a gift. She brings into the focus the importance of sustaining our own energy levels while caring for someone.
Connect with Debra Myers in the Forum or on the Marketplace. Debra Myers certifications in Stress Management, Integral Yoga, (as well as transforming personal health challenges attributed to stress) has qualified her to assist successfully, for almost 10 years, clients with stress and anxiety related disorders at the Psychological Cooperative of Malec, Herring and Krause.
A little patience, some understanding and compassion are traits of an empowered Caregiver. By knowing a little more about what's going on in the world of the person you are caring for will help overcome the challenges of frustration that exists within this new relationship.
Stressful situations are going to greet you on most days so check the emotional baggage at the front door. This role is going to have many personal challenges but at some point you must learn how to Let it Go. You are the Caregiver now, so own it.
By learning how to mix tools and support resources which are best for you will help you along this journey with your aging parent or loved one.
Always remember, you do not have to make this journey alone. Talk to someone, don't let it fester. When a friend's advice doesn't fit your situation- which most times it won't, connect with a support professional.
The Caregiver is on duty all the time. It does not make you a bad person for needing or wanting to take a few minutes of the the day to spend with your life partner. You are also not a bad person for forgetting to do this.
The demands of the Caregiver is 24/7. It will feel like you are "on" all the time and everything will start to feel like a chore including the relationship with your life partner.
By nature, relationships require a lot of work. Making time for your life partner is going to require extra effort. One of the things you may start feeling is your life partner will just become another person in your daily routine who you are taking care of. You may find it challenging to separate the emotions of being a Caregiver from being someone's lover.
These are all side effects of this role, but as long as you are aware of them, you may make a conscious effort to manage them.
Prioritizing Time with your Spouse/Life Partner:
On your daily schedule, put time on it for you and your spouse. Make it an
appointment on your Calendar. If your parent has a scheduler, put it on theirs
too. Set Google Home or your Alexa to announce the appointment.
Inform your loved one that you have this time set aside with your spouse. The
best time for this would be after dinner, they've received their evening meds
and watching their TV shows.
Reconnect by going on a walk or having a cocktail together. Text each other
during the day. Even the smallest gesture will have a significant impact.
Talk to others outside of your relationship to find the support you need. Maintaining
a relationship takes time and energy which are precious commodities for Caregivers.
Your spouse will be your biggest supporter in all of this. They are going to watch you change, but they are going to keep loving and supporting you. They will try to help you. You are going to be short with them. Your relationship with them is going to change or feel different. However, you are in control when you make a conscious effort to make your relationship a priority,
Balancing expectations with your loved one:
Unfortunately, this process is going to go on for as long as you are the Caregiver of your loved one. It is important to set expectations with the person you are caring for in the early stages as their Caregiver.
It is not being disrespectful or unkind by letting them know that you will take care of them, but there are things you need in your life that are just as important.
Your Home Work Assignment:
Find a practice such as Yoga to help learn how to Let it Go.
Have the conversation with your siblings to Get It Off your chest, Let it Go and Move On.
Practice kindness to create a more positive relationship with the one you are caring for.
Before reacting to a situation, take a deep breathe first, wait five minutes - if you still feel the same about it then move forward.
Grow your support network - Our Forum & Facebook Group