At what point do we call ourselves a “care giver?” We are in it and still haven’t admitted this role. You might be caring for your spouse who has had some troubles lately, an adult child, a parent.
As with so much of life, there is the practical side of what you are DOing and there is the emotional side or psychology of accepting what’s happening, to you and to the other person. Here are a few insider secrets to support your care giving.
Reach out for assistance even if it’s difficult. It’ll be worth it.
Build your village or your team. You already had a lot to do. And now, you have another person who needs your assistance physically, emotionally or perhaps with everyday life decisions and skills.
Reach out and build a team of experts to assist you: financial, medical, daily living, bill paying. Do what you can so that the edges of your life stay in tact as much as possible. Once you start asking, you will be surprised at the assistance you find. The first “ask” is the hardest.
You need to be a team manager for both of you to make this work.
Use a planner, one list or your technology device, but use something to supplement your memory.
During times of stress, we get brain freeze. Our memory seems less accurate, less specific. Even if you have never relied on a list or a planner or a notebook to keep track of things to do, now is the time you need to.
Because if you don’t, you will forget things. And then either someone’s care is diminished, or at the very least, you will feel horrible that you keep forgetting things. You’ll start talking negatively to yourself. And all of that just turns into negative, draining energy.
What you need is self-compassion for the very important job you are doing. And that requires self-esteem, a belief in yourself that you can do this. Because, really, you can. Even if you have never done this before.
Adapt your systems to keep life, home and work organized.
The simple truth is that you have more to do and more important responsibilities with someone else’s care, whether it’s short term or long term, temporary or significant issues.
That means that if you used to have a precise, detailed, organized system to handle bill paying for example, now you’re going to have to downsize your expectations and your system. Something’s got to get simpler.
You need more time to do what’s important. So spending less time on being well organized, but “organized enough” is the way this will work.
What could you do to simplify the major household systems you have? Who could help you or help you reorganize or learn different ways to handle your systems?
This is the most difficult, I think. You’ll be less stressed if you listen with new ears, not the same ones you’ve used in the past.
These ears need to listen more carefully to what is not said, to what is said many times over, and to what is truly being articulated, not what you believe is being said.
This is not a judgment; this is acknowledging how difficult and frustrating it is to carry this responsibility.
To have so much to do that you forget to listen as carefully as you know how. To have so much to think about that you don’t see how you could slow down to really hear, but hear differently.
Don’t try harder; try differently.
Don’t assume you have to do everything. Involve the one you are caring for… just differently from what you are used to.
One of the topics I’ve worked on with clients who are in a caregiving role is in building their team and knowing when to let go of control. Another one is to “try differently.”
Your parent/spouse/child may not be able to do exactly what he or she used to be able to do. It is very easy to slide into picking up the things he used to do.
What does that really do for both of you though? Ultimately, you may resent having to do EVERYTHING. And he may resent that he does not feel very useful and that you’ve taken on his burdens.
Or she may be dealing with so much of her own “stuff” and acceptance of what is happening to her that it is difficult to summon up the energy to handle her regular chores. But don’t take them all on.
Think differently and you’ll end up happier with each other.
- What small part CAN she do of those chores? What could she do that you used to do?
- Make the part as small as it needs to be, to garner a success for both of you.
- Ask opinions; that may be the most important thing you could do. Involve the person.
- What have been your strengths and his or hers, traditionally? Can you find something to do which fits his or her strengths?
A therapist once told me: There is caring for and caring about.
The former takes away equality in the relationship. The latter keeps it. Which combination of these two makes sense for you these days?
p.s. This site has particularly helpful articles. The Caregiver Space