Caring For The Caregiver
Posted: 3/1/2016 8:06 AM by
On an airplane, an oxygen mask descends in front of you. What do you do? As we all know, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important—and one of the most often forgotten—things you can do as a caregiver. When your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too.
Effects of Caregiving on Health and Well Being
Older caregivers are not the only ones who put their health and well being at risk. If you are a baby boomer who has assumed a caregiver role for your parents while simultaneously juggling work and raising adolescent children, you face an increased risk for depression, chronic illness and a possible decline in quality of life.
But despite these risks, family caregivers of any age are less likely than noncaregivers to practice preventive healthcare and self-care behavior. Caregivers report problems attending to their own health and well-being while managing caregiving responsibilities.
Taking Responsibility for Your Own Care
You cannot stop the impact of a chronic or progressive illness or a debilitating injury on someone for whom you care. But there is a great deal that you can do to take responsibility for your personal well being and to get your own needs met.
Why Don’t Caregivers Take Care of Themselves?
Many times, attitudes and beliefs form personal barriers that stand in the way of caring for yourself. Not taking care of yourself may be a lifelong pattern, with taking care of others an easier option. However, as a family caregiver you must ask yourself, "What good will I be to the person I care for if I become ill? If I die? Breaking old patterns and overcoming obstacles is not an easy proposition, but it can be done—regardless of your age or situation. The first task in removing personal barriers to self-care is to identify what is in your way. For example:
Do you think you are being selfish if you put your needs first?
Is it frightening to think of your own needs? What is the fear about?
Do you have trouble asking for what you need? Do you feel inadequate if you ask for help?
Sometimes caregivers have misconceptions that increase their stress and get in the way of good self-care. Here are some of the most commonly expressed:
I am responsible for my parent's health.
If I don't do it, no one will.
If I do it right, I will get the love, attention, and respect I deserve.
Our family always takes care of their own
I promised my father I would always take care of my mother
"I never do anything right," or "There's no way I could find the time to exercise" are examples of negative self-talk, another possible barrier that can cause unnecessary anxiety. Instead, try positive statements: "I'm good at giving John a bath." "I can exercise for 15 minutes a day." Remember, your mind believes what you tell it.
Because we base our behavior on our thoughts and beliefs, attitudes and misconceptions like those noted above can cause caregivers to continually attempt to do what cannot be done, to control what cannot be controlled. The result is feelings of continued failure and frustration and, often, an inclination to ignore your own needs. Ask yourself what might be getting in your way and keeping you from taking care of yourself.