Tunnel Vision and the Dilemma of Stranded Caregivers

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We’re all a little self-centered until we become the caregiver to an older loved one. Suddenly we have so much to think about, to do and to plan for, that everything else goes straight to the back burner. Life changes dramatically. We no longer have time for friends, to attend events we’d usually never miss or take care of our own needs. Are you stranded on caregivers’ island?

Having to become a full-time caregiver can often leave us stranded. Most of the time it’s a self-willed exile whether we realize it or not. Friends and even other family members that are used to relying on us begin to feel neglected and the Good Lord knows we feel abandoned too! Even Gilligan had a handful of friends he was stranded with.

It’s Not a One-Way Street

During the first few weeks (or even months), it’s understandable to be incommunicado, but that needs to change as soon as possible. If there were ever a time in your life that you need help from friends and family — it’s now! Staying in touch means having access to those who care enough to help, even if it’s to listen to you vent. Did you know that caregivers often die before the ones they’re caring for? You can’t be and do everything for very long before it takes a very expensive toll.

Who Are Your True Friends Really?

Reaching out to our friends and family can be a little scary. Will they help? Will they be too busy? When you feel a little desperate, anything can rock your boat. You will find out fairly quickly who really cares about you. The truth is — that is a good thing.

You just can’t continue to give care alone and stay healthy and sane. Every caregiver needs support and you are not any different. Reaching out means you can be the best caregiver possible.

Sit Down and Take Stock

Your social network and family are your lifelines. Have their names and numbers handy and take time to call them just to stay in touch. Let them know what you’re going through. Be willing to let them help and don’t be afraid to ask for their help. Chances are they’ve been waiting for you to ask.

What’s good for you is also good for those you’re caring for. More people mean more stimulation for your loved one which usually is a good thing. Your parent probably also feels guilt for taking up so much of your time. When you get a break, they can feel better.

Don’t Forget Your Loved One’s Neighbors and Friends

Don’t leave out some of the important people in your parent’s life. Keep in touch with them and make sure your parent does too. Encourage them to visit and reach out to them with needs. Helping others is a way for all of us to feel good about ourselves. Don’t be selfish — spread the good feelings.

Far Away Family – Don’t Leave Them Out!

It is harder for family that lives far away to help you and your loved one, but it’s not impossible. Encourage them to come for a weekend stay and give you a much needed break. If they can’t get away, perhaps they can pay for a little in-home care or a respite stay at a local assisted living facility for the one you’re caring for. Think outside the box and please don’t hesitate to get your needs met too! If you don’t get help, you’ll be stranded on caregivers’ island for a very lengthy and unhappy stay.

(This article was reviewed April, 2024 since it originally published October, 2016.)

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