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The Caregiver's Dilemma

Many of us will find ourselves being a caregiver for a loved one at some point. Whether they receive care at home or reside in some type of care facility, the person responsible for their health and well-being (you!) will be compelled to handle a number of problems -- some may not have a desired resolution. What happens to them (and us) when the situation extends for months or even years?

The many decisions of a caregiver can overwhelm us - Credit: iStock.

Who looks out for the caregiver?

We can become so focused on making sure that our loved one is being provided for properly, that we lose contact with those things that make us healthy and happy in our own lives. If “caregiving” is a sign of love, there must be room for love without total self-sacrifice. There are resources out there related to caregiving support and help, but I want to take a moment to speak a bit more directly to you.

Nobody can adequately take care of others if they are unable—or unwilling—to care for oneself. The latter circumstance frequently occurs when we don’t believe that we deserve to live a full and rich life when our loved one is suffering. In either case, it is a dangerous mindset because we are setting ourselves up for failure in the long-term.

On a personal note, within a short window I lost my Dad to colon cancer, a dear friend lost his young daughter to neuroblastoma, and I lost an aunt to dementia. In all of these situations their primary caregivers suffered right along with them. The emotional pain was just as real as the physical in the former two, and to an extent worse for the latter due to the insidious nature of dementia.

So, embrace life! The light of hope that you shine for others is only as bright as your internal reservoir. We replenish it daily through our “down time,” our contact with others, and our own affirmations.

Make time for the things you enjoy, even as you struggle to manage all of the major problems and micro details of caring for your loved one. Leave the house or hospital and take a long walk. Breathe in the air. Meditate. Appreciate the beauty of flowers, if you’re not allergic. Ride a bike. Drive a country road. Read a book for pleasure. Paint pictures. Go to a movie or show. Dance to your favorite song as if no one is watching. Do something for you!

This is not being selfish. It is a fundamental act of kindness to the most important person in your life: the one you see in the mirror every day. These activities recharge your battery so you can be as strong as is necessary to make it through the next day. And the one after that…and the one after that.

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