Caregiver, Wife, Mother
While it is true that most of us wear an assortment of hats throughout our lives, what happens when we take on the responsibility of wearing more hats than we can manage to balance on our heads? This may be your scenario if you, like many baby boomers, have an elderly parent who needs end-of-life care, plus a husband and maybe even children at home. Since cloning yourself is not an option, how do you pick and choose how to divide your time among all these people who need you? Your maternal instinct is telling you to care for everyone, but is that realistic?
If that paragraph left you feeling stressed and anxious, chances are you need to overcome some personal barriers and approach this busy life of yours more positively. Let’s look at some of the possible misconceptions you may have swimming around in your head that are increasing your stress and making the days ahead seem daunting. Perhaps if we pair the misconceptions with a more positive spin on the situation, you will see more clearly that caregiving and family responsibilities can be a privilege if you manage them well.
Misconception = I am responsible for my parent’s care. Me and me alone must shoulder this.
Positive approach = I’m honored to be able to care for my mother or father during the last part of their journey. I will do my best.
Misconception = Who will take care of mom if I don’t?
Positive approach = I know I can give my mom many happy days by caring for her myself. I know I am not alone in this however, and I can ask forsupport when I feel I need help. I’m in control.
Misconception = I promised mom that I would be the one to take care of dad.
Positive approach = I will care for dad as promised; however, others are also capable of caring for him when I need a break or when my own family needs me. I will try to find balance.
Doing your best to care for a loved one does not mean you have to sacrifice your own family’s happiness or your own health. You can achieve balance. Here are a few things you can try:
Ask for help. Easier said than done? If your loved one has hospice, Hospices like The Elizabeth Hospice can help by providing both trained and volunteer caregivers to provide whatever help you need; from running errands, to giving you a break to get your hair done or going to watch Billy play soccer. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization can help you find a hospice in your area.
Let other family members care for your loved one. It doesn’t always have to be you. They could give you a break or this could be time you spend together in care of that special loved one, instead of time you have to spend apart because you feel the responsibility of being present for you parent.
Reduce your own stress. Are you becoming more irritable, having problems eating or sleeping? Do you forget things all the time? These are some of the red flags that identify a higher than normal stress level. Look that stress in the face and decide what you can and cannot change about the situation. Change the things you can to gain back control and reduce stress. Take a break: walk, have coffee with a friend, meditate or take a long bubble bath.
Set realistic goals for yourself by identifying the problems causing you to feel stressed. List possible solutions with your family. Communicate honestly and clearly with each other.
Maybe mom needs to come live in your house to reduce time away from your own home. Or maybe you can find other resources to help. Keep an open mind about possible solutions. Just try a few you come up with and see how they work for you. They may not be perfect, but they may help you to balance all your hats.