Being a family caregiver is a 24/7 job. It’s probably one of the most difficult and thankless jobs one can do. The stress level is off the charts, the pay is non-existent and trying to make time for you is next to impossible.
We become caregivers for several reasons: need, duty, personality type, but mostly because we love the person who needs care and we want to support them through whatever it is that they are going through. It’s this final reason that keeps us showing up, even on the most difficult days.
Caring for another person can and will take its toll on us emotionally and physically if we do not FIRST take care of ourselves. Self-care is the biggest conundrum we face as caregivers as the majority of our time and energy is focused on the needs of others. In truth, if we do not take the time to take care of ourselves first we become less effective at caring for others which can create more problems than we already face as we try to manage the needs of others.
I (again) realized this the several years ago, after a long holiday weekend, I found myself up most of the night very sick (I won’t go into details let’s just say it wasn’t pretty). The next morning I had a long list of things I needed to do to help my aunt who is recovering from surgery, however; I realized when I tried to get up after only a few hours of sleep I was so exhausted that I couldn’t get my body nor my brain to function sufficiently enough to take care of the things that needed to get done, so I climbed back into bed and slept for another few hours.
Though I lost a good portion of my morning I was able to get everything done that NEEDED to be done, pushed a few things to the next day’s list and took an afternoon nap for good measure. To many of you this may seem like a day wasted, let me assure you, it wasn’t. By taking the steps necessary to make self-care a priority that day, I was 10x’s more productive the next day.
Sometimes all it take is a few extra hours of sleep, other times it might be prioritizing the to-do list by what NEEDS to get done and either delegating the other items or pushing them to a less jam-packed day.
Bottom line self-care needs to become a PRIORITY in the life of anyone who is caring for an elderly or chronically ill loved one. Not taking care for yourself when sick, or wearing yourself down trying to get it all done isn’t good for you or those who are depending on you.
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