There is much information out on the Internet about being a Family Caregiver. Ask anyone who has ever been there, and they will give you suggestions for how the job should be done. And I can promise you, everyone who has ever been a Family Caregiver feels that they were inadequate in some way with the care they provided, or how they balanced their time. For some, the guilt was levied by others who criticized or coached them in their role. For others, the criticism was self-administered. It’s crucial for you to embrace the fact that this is not a job that comes with a manual. Every person’s journey is different, and you must forge your own path. What worked for another might not work for you or for the one for whom you care.
At Heart of the Caregiver, our goal is to get to the heart of the matter and talk about those issues that are at the heart of caregiving. One of the problems that every Family Caregiver faces is how they feel about the work they are doing in the role of caring for another. Finding ways to celebrate your accomplishments can keep you motivated through the tough times. Feeling confident about how you allocate your time, where you place your priorities, and when and where you ask for help, are all components that can help you find joy in caregiving.
How you allocate your time is the first way you define who you are as a Family Caregiver. We have spent some time earlier in this blog discussing how to take time for yourself when you are caring for an aging loved one. Finding time for exercise, healthy nutrition, and “me” time are all important daily components to keep you healthy so you can give better care to your aging loved one. Build in resources like others to step in and give you time for these activities, and everyone will benefit in the long run. If you want to read more about “me” time, here’s the link to the earlier blog: https://heartofthecaregiver.blog/2017/11/14/finding-me-time/
Where you place your priorities is the second way you define who you are as a Family Caregiver. Knowing how to evaluate what is most important as each day unfolds can bring you joy in your role, and can help you provide the best possible care. If you are balancing a family, marriage, a career, community involvement, or other responsibilities with the role of Family Caregiver, you already know that daily prioritization is essential to feeling good about yourself and reaching your desired outcomes. And if everything you do is #1 on your list, ask a friend or advisor to help you reevaluate your priorities. Sometimes it takes an outsider to help us see what needs to get cut from our lives so we can become our better selves.
Asking for help is a third way you define who you are as a Family Caregiver. Just because you need help doesn’t make you inadequate or ineffective in your caregiving role; it is a reflection of your wisdom in realizing that you can’t manage it all by yourself. The key is to be smart about when, where, and how you ask for that help. Don’t wait until you are at the end of your rope to start gathering resources. Begin early to learn about options for care within your church or community. Try not to line up respite care two days before your family’s beach vacation. Make contact with professional home care agencies, facilities that provide respite care stays, or friends who have offered to help out several weeks in advance of the time when you need supplemental care. Do research in advance about which agencies or facilities have the best reputation. Set up meetings and get to know representatives of these organizations well in advance of when you need them. Know the potential costs involved, or even barter services with friends and neighbors if money is tight. Preplanning will significantly enhance your success at taking time away and having peace of mind that your loved one receives adequate care in your absence. This same strategy also applies to Family Caregivers who balance careers with caregiving. If you think your aging parents will need assistance within the next year, it’s not too early to begin learning about care options within your community. You don’t have to commit to obtain information.
So now you have an idea of how to write your own book on caregiving. You really can break all the rules and still be a champion Family Caregiver. With efficient time allocation, solid priorities, and help when you need it, you will find peace, balance, and joy in every day!