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Remarkable and insightful assessment. I really like the term "befriender". Have a blessed Christmas.
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I am a middle aged woman who lives alone and works full time. I have 2 elderly parents in care - my mother has dementia and my father suffers from extreme anxiety and cannot see well. I live 500 miles from them but I take a week out of work every month to visit them and speak to them every day. I work for myself so its very difficult and expensive for me to do this but I feel its what I have to do since they have no other relatives in this country. I have been allowing my health to suffer by letting my elderly father, who has always been very controlling, become too demanding and responding too readily to his wishes. Then I realised that he was becoming more and more frantic - as a child would - and I in turn was becoming more angry with him as my health and emotions suffered while I tried to juggle work and parent care and knew that I had to get some help. I contacted their local authority and they suggested a 'befriender' to help to keep my dad company and occupy some time with him to give me a rest, and also to allow my dad to see that other people are interested in him, as she thinks a lot of how he is can be down to his feeling of isolation now that my mothers dementia is getting worse. Since telling my Dad that he is getting some more attention he has stopped being quite so demanding and seems to have calmed down a bit. Just knowing that he is feeling a bit better is helping me feel better, so I am going to continue to look for ways to help which also help me as I realise if I don't stay calm and healthy then they suffer too. I live in the UK so our resources are different but I am sure there will be similar aid organisations in the US. Its very hard to put yourself first but maybe the initial step is to put yourself on an equal footing and say - "I will do something good for them if it is equally good for me" - even if the "good for you" is only a feeling of relief!
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You know when you are on an airplane and the flight attendant is providing information for your safety? The rule is: PUT YOUR OWN OXYGEN MASK ON FIRST, then assist others! A friend reminded me of this at our annual Christmas lunch the other day. I'm definitely feeling like a smushed sandwich-generation person at the moment. It is contrary to women's DNA it seems to nurture themselves FIRST, but we have to work on this to stay well and have minutes of peace each day. It really is okay to love yourself enough to be welll.
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marianne18,

I know its hard what you are going through. Caregiving is not an easy job, but it can be rewarding when you know you are doing the best that you can with what you have. The best thing to be a better caregiver is to take care of yourself first. Life is hard but just know that you can get through anything.

Keep up the positiveness!
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Hi Marianne18, I believe we can care for someone and give ourselves the care we need to be physically, mentally and emotionally well, we just have to work really hard to do it. It's a matter of priority and of course reasonably so. Taking care of ourselves has to be our priority before we can care for another persons needs. I think the biggest mistakes that many of us make is that we let caring for the person in our care demand more of us than we are reasonably able to give. This is bound to happen from time to time and when it does we have to stretch ourselves and that's not unreasonable however when it becomes a constant demand and we see that we are sacrificing our own health (body, mind, soul levels) if we are honest with ourselves we will see that it is not only being loyal to ourselves but to the one we care for to make changes for both to benefit. To often I see people who are caring for another person they love actually martyr themselves thinking that they are doing the right thing and demonstrating loyalty. Usually when doing this a person gets overwhelmed and resentful in the long run and that not only damages the caregiver but the one being cared for. I'm not judging others but rather making an observation. I to have been guilty of doing the same thing. Fortunately I have seen the error in my behavior and at times still need to see where change is necessary. The overall goal is to be able to keep focus on our own needs while caring for others. When we cannot do both then we need to get help or make a change in the level of care we give. Because our emotions run high at times we can lose our good judgment, but over time we should even out. During the most difficult times it sure is good to have this forum and the friends here for moral support regardless of what our decisions are. We all need support from others, especially when conflicted on what to do.
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