“…The other thing I learned is to always be careful when using the word “can’t” because with God, all things are possible. HE changed my perspective…” – a Caregiver
Being a Caregiver can be a blessing and a burden, a time of joy and sorrow. But it is always hard work. Being prepared and getting your rest are critical. Will you ever be prepared enough or find all the rest you need? Probably not. So just do the best you can. And since there may be times when even that will still not satisfy you, there are a few things you can remember to keep your mind and heart on track.
Accept help when it’s offered. You can’t do it all, and guess what? God doesn’t want you to. Give others the opportunity to grow in their walk with Him by allowing them to help you.
Tell people what you need. Be honest and even a little bold. People can’t help when they don’t know what you need.
Find a confidant. This is someone you can open up to, who will listen and not judge, and who will keep your confidences. Often Caregivers need to say exactly what they feel, not what they pretend to show on the outside. We are best able to deal with our loneliness, frustration, sorrow, resentment, and anger (even towards God) when we can talk it out.
Understand your emotions. At some time, every Caregiver experiences some depression, resentment, anger, self pity, loneliness, an attitude of “it’s not fair”, the desire to run away from it all, and especially guilt for feeling any or all of the above. That’s normal. You have to admit your feelings before you can deal with them. Denying them is what’s harmful.
Talk to other Caregivers. That may not be possible, but whenever you have the opportunity, do this. Ask questions. Tell them what you’re going through. Not only will you have another chance to get things off your chest, but you’ll be talking to someone who’s “been there, done that”. They can give you new ideas, a different way of getting things done, but most of all, they can help you discover what’s normal.
Remind yourself you’re not an idiot. Have some confidence. Sure you may not understand everything, but you can learn. And you will. In fact, you’ll learn that you are capable of doing far more than you ever realized.
Know what you can’t do and be satisfied with that. This may be difficult because Caregivers often try to do everything. Even when they can’t do something, they feel guilty about it. Don’t fall into that trap. We all have limitations. Figure out what those are. It may be that someone else can step in and provide the needs or skills you may not have. But don’t feel guilty. Learn. Do what you can. And be satisfied. You’re not God.
Remember the mindset of the person you’re helping. Often Caregivers take the brunt of the anger, resentment, and frustration that comes from the person they’re helping. That’s normal. You may be having problems, but don’t forget theirs are worse. You may be very close, but you are still on the outside looking in. They don’t mean to hurt you. They are simply acting out their suffering.
Don’t try to be their counselor. Counseling takes a lot of experience and knowledge. Unless you have the right training and education, it is very easy is give bad advice. Often what they need is for you to just listen to them. Without judgment. Without comment. Just listen.
Don’t always expect the worst. Some people subscribe to what Ben Franklin once said. “I always expect the worse. Then when it doesn’t happen, I’m pleasantly surprised.” That philosophy, however, will beat you down over time, just as will always expecting the best. Don’t be overly optimistic or pessimistic, but do be prepared so you’re not surprised or caught off-guard.
Seek professional advice only from professionals. Whatever the need may be – medical, legal, tax, accounting, finances, investments, insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, car repair, home repair, etc. – try to get advice from someone experienced in that field rather than handling the situation on your own or taking the word of a friend. Good intentions and common sense don’t always equal accurate information. You’ve got enough to do and don’t need that burden as well.
Join a support group. Because of the time required in caregiving, that may be very difficult… but try. If you need someone to take your place for a few hours or help in taking you to a meeting, ask for the help. This will give you some very needed comfort because you will be with others who have gone through and are going through the same struggles. They will understand and you will find that you’re not alone.
Take the opportunity to be with other people. Sometimes you just need a break, a time to be with other people. This may have nothing to do with you being a Caregiver, just an opportunity to relax and talk about anything else. Or it could be a time when you can just vent, unloading on someone who will understand some of the things you are going through.
Learn about stress management. All Caregivers go through stress. Go to the library, a book store or the Internet and learn how you can handle the stress that will definitely come. What you can do will depend on the demands of your caregiving, but there will always be something that can provide at least some relief.
Keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but as questions or problems come up, make a note about them. This will help you remember to find answers, rather than letting them build up and overwhelm you. And when you find that answer, make a note of that, too. It may come in handy again.
Forgive others. Almost always… they mean well and have good intentions. They just don’t understand what you’re going through or how hard this can be. So often, caregiving tends to be a “been there, done that” kind of thing. And when they haven’t, they can say and do the wrong thing without ever realizing the hurt they’ve caused.
Always take one day at a time. Caregiving must focus on the here and now. Plans can be made, but the need is in the present and there are enough things to be concerned about now. Often as we look to the coming days, we can easily become depressed and discouraged, especially when we know there will be tough days ahead. Don’t fall into that trap. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34