The Changing Dynamics in the Life of a Caregiver

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Changes — they’re never easy. Life is all about changes and if you want to really mix it up try becoming a caregiver. Suddenly there’s just not enough time in the day. If ever you needed to be cloned it’s while caring for an older loved one. If you’re still raising a family or just have a spouse at home, those relationships may suffer. Even friendships can be tested while you’re focusing on the needs of a parent. There just doesn’t seem to be a way to make everyone happy.

So What’s the Problem?

The people in your life are used to you being there for them. When you’re thrown into the role of a caregiver, something’s got to give. You count on those in your life to be understanding and at first they are but then they feel neglected, unappreciated, resentful that your attention is not on them. Friends begin to pull away because you’re not available. Don’t they understand the strain you’re under? Frankly — no!

How Can We Make it Better?

Include them. Sounds easy but you’re sure to get some resistance. The only way they will truly understand the role you have as a caregiver is to become involved. When they spend some time in your moccasins, they will understand better. They will become invested in what you’re doing and what you need. The benefits can be endless for everyone involved. Those you love will get to spend more time with that beloved elder. The older family member will get more time with people that love them and it will give you a break. They’ll begin to understand why you don’t have time to cook every night or keep your house the way you used to. They might even pitch in! Just remember to show how grateful you are.

Avoid Tunnel Vision

So often people who undertake a huge task like caregiving begin to focus on everything that needs to be done. Somewhere along the line we begin to believe that we’re the only one who can do everything. That’s where we go wrong. When you ask for help, you’re not always going to get it, but don’t let that stop you from asking. You must take care of yourself in this journey through caregiving or everyone will suffer.

Take Time for Yourself

The mental and physical strain of caregiving can be devastating. Perhaps you’ve heard the statistics that caregivers often suffer what you might call “post-caregiving” health issues. These issues can be serious. You must get your rest. You must eat well. You have to get some exercise for both your physical and mental health. You need to at least have lunch with a friend once a week or take yourself out to the movies. Tell those you love and those who love you how much it means to you to have their support. If you have siblings that live too far away to physically help, ask them to give you some financial support for in-home care or respite care so you can recoup.

It Does Take a Village

Everyone you involve in your caregiving journey will benefit. Our elders are so important and the care you are giving them in their time of need is the ultimate act of love. Let others feel the purpose and satisfaction in the act of giving. Don’t be an island — it’s lonely there. Reach out to family members, neighbors and friends to get the help you need. I hope you realize that you’re showing the younger people in your life how elders should be valued, cared for and loved.

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