As a caregiver, you have to be realistic about what can and can’t be controlled. You can’t control that your loved one has a chronic or progressive disease — nor can you control the impact of that disease.
But you can control how you respond to the situation by taking ownership of your caregiver role and recognizing that it might be a long-term job. This acknowledgement will allow you to plan and seek help.
The next step is to understand the scope of long-term caregiving. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. Marathoners get through a race by pacing themselves and getting sustenance and water along the way. A lot of people throw themselves into a “caregiving frenzy” that quickly leads to emotional and physical burnout. Do your best to avoid that.
Be realistic. Think positive.
Your attitude can be the biggest barrier to taking care of yourself and doing the best job for your loved one. Tell yourself that you need to stay healthy and that you have rights and needs too. It’s worth reminding yourself: You’ll do the best you can, but you’ll need help along the way.
Being realistic and positive thinking are easier if you:
- Have confidence in your role as a caregiver. Assure yourself: “It’s a tough job, but I can do it.” Teach your mind to think in positive terms.
- Own your feelings. You might feel sorrow, anger, resentment or fear as a caregiver, and all those feelings are valid. Seek help if you feel like those feelings are constantly getting the better of you.
- Acknowledge your limitations. Admit that you can’t control the impact of the disease on your loved one. Recognize that you’ll need help sometimes, and don’t be afraid to ask.
- Listen to your body. Your body will let us know when you need food, exercise, rest or medical attention. Give your body what it needs. It’s important to recharge your batteries from time to time.
- Learn the signs of chronic depression. Be on the watch out for symptoms of depression. Reach out for help if you experience depression, which can often be managed with talk therapy, medication or a combination of both. A weekly visit to a counselor can be of immeasurable help.
- Maintain a sense of self outside of caregiving. Keep living. Allow yourself time for a personal life.
- Communicate with other caregivers. Other caregivers will understand what you’re going through. They can offer comfort and help.
- Stay connected with the outside world. Don’t become isolated. Stay in touch with friends, even if it has to be online.
- Insist on getting respite care. Respite care, or outside help to care for your loved one for periods of time, can benefit you greatly. Consider it, even if you have to explain to your loved one why you need the break.
- Stick to the present. Do what you have to do today. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. You can plan ahead, but don’t let worrying about the future come to rule your life.