Taking Care of You First
Family Caregiving is by far the most demanding and complicated responsibility one can experience—the caregiver must be “the jack of all traits yet the master of none.”
Family caregiver is a person who provides non-professional, unpaid care for an ill or aging family member. Family caregivers may find the need to care for a loved one at an unexpected time in their lives following an accident or diagnosis of a serious illness at a young age. Even when taking care of an aging family member, the responsibility is nearly impossible to imagine until the caregiver is in the throws of care. In essence, the journey may be long and filled with great uncertainty.
In your role as a caregiver, you must keep in mind that the most important person is you, the caregiver. Without your strength, your wisdom and your support how can you care for your loved one? This notion may seem counter-intuitive, as you are caring for someone that needs you.
As a family caregiver, setting boundaries and communicating those boundaries will set the platform and expectations for the care. Therefore, the first step is to define your job: are you the medical caregiver, the household manager or the loved one providing emotional support? Most will answer all of the above. Consequently, how do you juggle your own commitments when you are providing intense care for someone who needs you? It is imperative to take “me” time to clear your mind, to exercise, and spend time with family and friends. So often I hear, “No I can’t do that.” Yes you can! Without taking care of you, how will you have the patience for your caregiving role?
While difficult for many of us, asking others for help is crucial for survival. Arrange for rides for the non-critical appointments, ask a friend to “babysit” while you go for a walk outside and create a list of what needs to be done, having it handy when someone offers assistance. Easily delegated tasks include grocery shopping, picking up a prescription at the pharmacy, carpool support for kids, in-home medical/hygiene support and light household chores.
Your family needs you and you need you – find the appropriate balance and ask for help so you can take care of you first.
Rachel Kodanaz is an author, speaker and coach who provides support to workplaces when there has been a death of an employee or when an employee has experienced a personal loss. She is the author of Grief in the Workplace and Living with Loss, One Day at a Time.