Everywhere I travel and meet caregivers, I see a common theme: Most family caregivers are afraid to ask for help. Somehow people think that they should just miraculously know how to care for an aging loved one.
Why would you know this? You did not receive a PhD in Caregiving and your loved one poses challenges that you don't have the answers to. As I'm listening to their challenges, frustrations, fears, sorrows, stress-induced situations and overall feelings of being overwhelmed, I find that many caregivers seem to need permission from a professional to ask for help. So very simply, I reach out and take the person's hand, and give permission. Usually there is an instant look of relief in the person's face. It's incredible that giving someone permission to not be perfect helps relieve the pressure and the stress.
Caregivers frequently suffer from severely stressful emotions that can control and even ruin their lives. Sadly, these are the caregivers who, for whatever reason, have refused to ask for help or seek professional advice either from a medical doctor or a therapist. In order to manage the caregiving journey, you simply must step out of your comfort zone and find alternative methods for dealing with your personal situation.
The only way that family caregivers can sustain all that needs to be done to care for a loved one is to delegate responsibility and ask for help. It's really simple and it changes lives.
Here are some things that I think are okay for caregivers:
- It's okay to be scared.
- It's okay to be angry, lost, sad and even depressed.
- It's okay to lose your patience.
- It's okay that you don't want to sacrifice your whole life for someone else. And you shouldn't.
- It's okay that your self-esteem feels damaged.
- It's okay that you make mistakes.
- It's okay that you don't know how to do everything.
- It's okay that you don't have the answers.
- It's okay that you don't have a cure.
- It's okay that you're not there all the time.
- It's okay that you sometimes have extreme feelings towards the person for whom you are caring.
- It's okay that you lost your temper.
- It's okay that you had to apologize.
- It's okay that you're afraid.
- It's okay that you can't get everything done in a day.
- It's okay that you have guilt. All caregivers have guilt.
- It's okay that you have compassion fatigue.
- It's okay you feel trapped.
- It's okay that you took a few days for yourself.
- It's okay that you vented to your spouse or friend.
All of these things are absolutely okay. How you manage them is going to make the difference between becoming an empowered caregiver or staying in a hopeless situation.
Here are some things that are NOT okay.
- It's not okay that you feel like you have to do everything yourself.
- It's not okay that you feel like an indentured servant.
- It's not okay that you are ignoring your personal needs.
- It's not okay that you are ignoring friends and social activities.
- It's not okay that asking for help paralyzes you.
- It's not okay that you don't have a plan in place.
- It's not okay to feel helpless and hopeless for days on end.
- It's not okay that you have stopped doing activities you once loved.
- It's not okay that you are afraid to say "no" or "not now."
- It's not okay that your siblings don't help you.
- It's not okay that you don't have boundaries in place.
- It's not okay that you feel unappreciated by your family.
- It's not okay that you have lost pride in what you are doing for another human being.
- It's not okay to sacrifice your financial security.
- It's not okay that you do everything your loved one wants, especially when the demands can be outrageous.
- It's not okay that you don't sleep or eat properly.
- It's not okay that you are constantly exhausted when help is available, if you would only seek it.
- It's not okay that you are sacrificing your personal health for another.
- It's not okay that you are constantly trying to fix everything that is wrong.
- It's not okay that you are living your life in crisis.
If any of the above rings true for you, then decide right now that you will get the help you need. Decide that you will live your life in a better way. Decide that you will take the necessary steps to ask for and get answers to the challenges that you are facing. Decide today that you are worth the time, energy and financial investment to survive, thrive and become an Empowered Caregiver.