Caring for the needs of a loved one is often incredibly rewarding. Knowing that the best care decisions are being made and that the paperwork, insurance claims and many other day-to-day needs of the loved one are being addressed, should help caregivers sleep better at night.
But are they sleeping?
One of the most challenging personal stressors that Caregiver’s face is feeling that they do not have the opportunity or the space to take care of themselves. Whether due to lack of time or feelings of guilt, most caregivers find it difficult to take a few moments to refresh, recharge and regroup. Often Caregivers find themselves skipping meals, putting aside healthy habits and or find themselves so wired and tired at the end of the day that they lie awake most of the night. Worrying. Spinning. Exhausted.
Who are these Caregivers?
This question is critical. Often Caregivers do not see themselves as caregivers. When I was going through my son’s crisis, I didn’t initially see myself as a Caregiver either. I was his mom. I believed that as his parent it was my “job” to do whatever needed to be done to ensure he got the care and support that was needed. But when a child, parent, partner or other family member goes into crisis, the level of care changes dramatically and with it so does the need for support and self-care for those responsible for the caring. I was responsible for the majority of my son’s care, treatment decisions and planning. I was living the very definition of a Caregiver.
Identifying ourselves as a Caregiver is powerful.
It allows us to then be more open to seek out and accept support, guidance and tools that help our loved ones and us throughout the crisis experience and beyond. Connecting with peers, support groups or agencies that focus on Caregiving can be a good first step to getting the help that is needed.
Perhaps you are not a Caregiver, but you know someone who is.
Many people find it challenging to know what to do or how to support a caregiver or family in crisis. Unfortunately, because of this, many will stay silent. When I think back to my own story, I know that people genuinely were concerned about my son and his progress. I know now that their silence wasn’t due to a lack of interest in my son’s situation. The silence, however, was deafening. I found that I initially translated this silence into belief that my needs were not important, and I acted accordingly. I didn’t allow myself time to breathe, to take care of my needs or to maintain my health and wellness so that I could take better care of my son. In fact, initially, I abandoned myself and my own needs, feeling that I was somehow to blame for my son’s crisis.
Six months into my son’s health crisis, I read a statistic that startled me. The majority of Caregivers who were not caring for themselves during a loved ones crisis were themselves likely to be dealing with a physical or emotional health emergency around 18 months post crisis. Burnout, addiction, mental health breakdown or disease are often the by-products of not taking care of ourselves during and after a crisis situation.
Caring for the Caregiver is NOT just the caregiver’s responsibility either.
It is everyone’s responsibility. This must be a team effort, even when a caregiver is not asking for help, because the truth is most caregivers will not.
If you are a Caregiver, please know that you are not alone. There are many of us here who truly understand how difficult it is to balance all the spinning plates on top of broomsticks every single day. WE KNOW that dropping one of those plates is not an option. You must find a way to support yourself through the crisis times and take the time to heal when the crisis is over. You need to ask for support!
If you know a Caregiver, pick up the phone and offer your support. Show up with meals, lend a helping hand, or take an overnight shift. It may look like everything is being handled but the reality is that there is not only a NEED for support, it is critical to the health and well-being of all involved.
Together we can care for the Caregivers!
For additional Parent and Caregiver support, please visit www.rechargebasecamp.com