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When you’ve said YES to Caregiving: then reality sets in

Most people have no idea what comes with saying “YES” to caring for a loved one. What do you do once you have said yes and then realize it is more than you bargained for?  Maybe it is an immediate   “oh no this is more than I can handle,” maybe after a short while you realize you aren’t cut out for this or perhaps you have been caring for your loved one for a while and things have changed so you to no longer feel able to meet the needs of your loved one or yourself. There are many reasons you could feel in over head and with that decision comes: guilt, a sense of failure, betrayal or fear of judgment.

Is it fair to judge yourself for being honest? Is it fair for others to judge you? The answer to both is NO and yet we cannot help but do it. I am sure many of us have had feelings that this is just too much but feel there is no way out. We continue to go on as we have for many reasons, the emotions mentioned above or money or you simply don’t know how to make a change.

A friend recently told me something that resonated in many ways. She asked “how often have you made a commitment and for whatever reason you realize you can no longer honor your decision?” She followed up with this very wise advice: Ask yourself are you now continuing to honor the promise to your loved one (or the person to whom you have made the commitment) or are you just committed to the commitment? Is this truly doing the honorable thing or are you becoming a martyr?

As a caregiver I was faced with this decision many times. I was fortunate to have finances and a supportive family that allowed me to not only do what was best for our mom but also care for myself in the process. Our care plan changed many times over the 8 years.

Many caregivers are not met with support when they voice their challenges. There is often judgment and resistance from family members and friends. Some caregivers have no one to voice help them during these challenging times. Even with support there often is self criticism and doubt.

How can you find solutions to alter your care plan that also honors the commitment and your needs? Here are some steps to help begin the process:

  • Identify the challenge(s). Be specific, can you see how each of these may have different solutions?

–          I am exhausted

–          I am depressed

–          I feel isolated and alone

  • Ways to identify the challenge. First start by making a list and then try to identify what is causing the problem.  Often the original challenge is not actually the problem.

–          You may think the challenge is you have lost your patience. But you discover the problem is you are exhausted. Once you think about it you realize the reason is not due to lack of sleep but due to depression.

  • Work on one challenge at a time
  • Start your search to solve the problem: Seek help from a professional

–          A good place to begin is mentioning the situation with your loved ones physician

–          Seek advice from other caregivers. There are many support groups in most areas or on-line

–          For many common caregiving challenges you can get solutions by using an organization like Family Caregiving 101, National Stroke Association or The Area Agency on Aging, CarePartnersResource.com, just to name a few. Most of these organizations have on line information and someone you can speak with.

–          If you are stuck try Google or Bing they can be great resources. Just type in your problem

It may be that even after this research you still feel unable to continue on in the role as caregiver. There are resources and funding to help in finding alternative care in most cases. Ask about alternatives when you are researching assistance.

Finally no matter what you decide is the answer be gentle with yourself. Caregiving is not easy and not for everyone.  Taking good care of yourself is the best way to care for your loved one!

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