"There are many different types of family caregivers: people caring forspouses who become ill or disabled, parents caring for children with disabilities, adult children caring for aging parents, family members caring for an injured veteran who returns from war, or to a loved one who suffers a traumatic brain injury after a car accident. Many caregivers, especially moms, perform more than one caregiving role such as providing care to an elderly parent with dementia and to a child with a disability – also referred to as a sandwich generation caregiver. Due to their dedication, many caregivers are at great risk for burnout and a personal health decline that puts their loved ones at risk.
Almost every family caregiver throughout the world assumes her/his role without pre-planning. The role emerges as a result of an unexpected family member health crisis that results in illness, injury, or disability. When duty calls, the caregiver jumps in to support the loved one in need without hesitation and puts other parts of their life on hold or on the back burner.
Most caregivers try do it all on their own as they do not want to burden others with the many responsibilities associated with care. As a result, they pass on job opportunities, decrease work hours, or even leave jobs, which can diminish their own financial security. They may stop focusing on personal health which increases their own risk for serious illness or disease.
Although most caregivers perform heroically and show a positive face to support their loved ones, they can break down physically and emotionally. This low energy can even carry over to ignoring or delaying the implementation of what they can control – such as coordinating appointments or activities that are personally beneficial.
Unfortunately, caregivers usually devote little or no time to having fun with friends or intimate partners. They may give up personal hobbies and recreational activities that previously provided great fulfillment and joy. Basically, the life of a caregiver can sadly transform to one of all work, no play, and no joy. It does not need to be this way.
The good news is that with a renewed commitment to self it is possible to recharge your caregiving energy now and save your own life in the process. Think about it this way. Before an airplane takes off, the flight attendant shares emergency instructions. One of the primary directions is that when the oxygen masks drop overhead, it is vital for parents to place them on themselves before applying to the children. Otherwise, they run the risk of passing out which could lead to death for both the parent and child. The same principle applies to effective caregiving. Apply the oxygen mask first to yourself and then apply it to your loved one so both of you can survive to see another day.
Once you commit to taking care of yourself and willingly seek support from others, you and your loved one can actually thrive during the caregiving journey. Start by making a list of all of the tasks you do to manage your household and take care of your loved one. When other family members or friends ask how they can be of support, you will have a menu of items for them to choose from. People respond and perform best when they are given a choice to contribute based upon their individual abilities, preferences, and talents.
When seeking support from others, do not forget the younger generation. Children and teens enjoy feeling valued and can play an important role in helping to care for loved ones, especially grandparents and siblings with special needs. Young people who get involved with caregiving responsibilities will learn important life skills and can bring joy to the situation. This can allow you to take a little time for yourself. You might go out for a walk, read a book, take a relaxing bath, listen to music, get together with a friend, or participate in a favorite hobby.
After you complete your personal respite activity, make sure to share lots of appreciation with the young family member who provided the support. An expression of deep gratitude will keep them motivated to do more in the future. Do not overuse one child/teen and make sure they have opportunities to get breaks from the stresses of family caregiving as well. Check in and have in-depth conversations with your child to answer any questions or address any concerns. This will leave the young person feeling like a valued and contributing family member. Best of all, it will enhance harmony and satisfaction in the home, which will be great for all involved.
Go forward with love and support, fellow caregiver!
Guest Author Bio:
Michael is a Certified Professional Coach and Caregiving Without Regret™ Expert A. Michael Bloom, MA, MS, CPC, has energized hundreds of caregivers with soul-saving coping strategies that support them in saving lives, including their own. With a wealth of practical expertise as both a family and professional caregiver, Michael serves as a welcome and sought-after catalyst to guide caregivers to stay energized and committed to work that has never been more important than it is today.
You can learn more about the book at http://www.theaccidentalcaregiverssurvivalguide.com
and Michael’s coaching and speaking services at http://www.bloomforcoach.com.
Whether you are a caregiver or not, what will you do FOR YOURSELF this weekend?