One of the many things caregivers have in common guilt. Generally, it's unearned guilt. We haven't done enough. We could do something better. We are imperfect caregivers. So? We are human.
There isn't a person on earth who can guess another person's needs and respond exactly right every time. If you add physical ailments and mental issues such as Alzheimer's or other dementias to our messy lives, well, our best intentions will often be at least slightly off the mark.
With a shiny new 2010 approaching, my guess is that many of you have resolved to be better caregivers. You will get more education about your loved one's ailments. Good for you. You will be more patient. Great! Do try. You will attempt to not take your loved one's moods so personally, which will help everyone stay a little more even with their moods. Good plan.
All of these intentions are good and I hope you will do your best to follow through. But remember that you will not do any of this perfectly, and that's okay.
Remember, too, that you need to make some resolutions to help yourself. Since it is list making time, here's a start:
- I will arrange some alone time for myself. Hard as it can be, I will find a way.
- I will see some of my long neglected friends for some social time
- I will say no to any organization that I feel I can't give time to just now, and I won't feel guilty about it.
- I will remember that there are others in my family, besides my spouse or elders, who need something from me.
- I will check my own exhaustion levels and say no, even to my elders, when I can't do more.
- I will seek some outside help when I need it, either from friends and family, from my religious group, or paid help.
- I will remember that getting help with my caregiving is not a sign of failure. It's a sign that I know when I can no longer deliver the best care for my loved one by myself.
- I will remember that my spouse or parent didn't choose this disease, but I didn't choose it for him or her, either. My sympathy and empathy will be evident, but I will not be a martyr.
- I will remember that over 30% of caregivers die before those they care for. Therefore, taking care of myself is not selfish. If I get sick or die, my loved one will not have me as a caregiver.
- I will seek professional help for myself if depression or other ailments interfere with my mental, physical, emotional or spiritual health.
You will, of course, have your own version of resolutions. Or you may decide that your New Year's resolution is that you won't make any. That way your can't break any. I've heard of people making a whole list and then breaking them all New Year's day to get it over with. I sort of fall in the middle. I know I'll smudge up the New Year quickly, so I resolve that I will forgive myself for that, and move on.
Whatever your approach, know that you are unique. Your loved ones are unique. What you can give as a caregiver is unique. So, for 2010, resolve to not carry around unearned guilt. From there, you will do fine.
Happy New Year to you and to all of those you love. It's sure to be a bumpy year. You've been around long enough to know that life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. Hang in and try to enjoy all the love you can find.
Published On: December 27, 2009