Your three-year-old is crying for your attention in the back seat, your hearing-impaired father is next to you complaining about his medications, your spouse is on the cell asking about dinner, and you are wondering how you got into this moving three-ring circus of chaos. Sound familiar?
This scene is becoming more common as caregivers are taking care of the needs of family members from other generations (your parents, your grandparents, your children) simultaneously. Unfortunately, humans are not designed to effectively do two (or more) things at once. Because our brains need time to reset when we go back and forth between tasks, we can become less efficient and provide less quality care. This may all sound beside the point, but there has been an increasing societal expectation that caregivers can effectively do this even though science is now proving that we cannot.
When We Try And Do It All
Though multitasking is just one example, one of the most common problems for caregivers is believing that we can (or should) do things that are not reasonable or even possible. The following represent some of these unrealistic ideas:
- We should be able to care for our family members all by ourselves
- We should not begrudge the time we have with our family member
- We should be able to dig deep and muscle our way through this period
If these ideas are how one gets through their caregiving day, it is setting up a case of serious burnout and possible total inability to care for those you love. Each one of these (and others like them) cause considerable grief that can be avoided through fairly straightforward methods.
A Better Way To Take Care Of Everyone
As a caregiver, a healthy motto can be “I should not do this alone”. Following through with this idea can ease a lot of stress and encourage people to “look outside the box” for ways to get extra help. Sometimes professional caregivers may meet this need, sometimes family members can be drafted for this purpose. Knowing and respecting your own limits is critical in caring for others.
The major way to help yourself as a caregiver is to schedule regular respite from direct caregiving. During this time to yourself, you can exercise, indulge in pleasurable activities and, perhaps, connect socially with others who are caring for loved ones. Attending to your own spiritual and emotional needs is an important part of being a successful caregiver. It is a way to stay healthy and be able to cope realistically with the challenges that come your way.
Always Put The Mask On Yourself First
Whenever you fly, there are instructions in what to do in an emergency. As a caregiver, you are directed to put an oxygen mask over yourself first before your child. In such a dire circumstance, it is understood that the caregiver must be made safe first, so that they can then care for their loved ones. This is not a off-base way of approaching caregiving even when you are not in an airplane emergency: Tend to yourself first, so that you can tend to others next.
A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Robert Boxley PhD @ Centerstone
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