Be Kind to Yourself

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by Joy Loverde

Your sister is critical of how you are caring for your Dad; your husband resents the amount of time you spend away from home; you missed your daughter’s piano recital once again; your boss is slowly losing patience waiting for overdue reports.

When we take on the role of family caregiver for aging parents and spouses, we’re pulled in a hundred different directions—family relationships, job responsibilities, friends and co-workers, personal commitments, and the person who is relying on you for assistance—someone and something is always vying for your attention.

Some days it feels as though the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and feeling depressed and lonely cuts like a knife. Other days, guilt is our constant companion. Am I doing enough? Am I doing a good job? Will I be a bad person if I say “no” once in a while when my parent makes a request of me?

Your own health, the quality of your professional and personal commitments, your relationships outside of the one you have with your parents need not suffer as a consequence of providing care. What is takes is a leap of faith. In my book,The Complete Eldercare Planner (Random House, Updated and Revised, 2009), I wrote about the many ways family caregivers can be kinder to themselves in the caregiving process. Here’s a list that gives insights on whether or not you might be on the brink of going off the deep edge.

Take an honest look at yourself, and ask yourself the following questions as a way to monitor your current caregiver stress level. If you answer “yes” far too many times, please ask for help today...

Do I . . .

  • Resent the person I am caring for?
  • Do I resent other family members?
  • Feel angry most of the time?
  • Find little satisfaction in caregiving?
  • Feel trapped and burdened?
  • Feel like the rest of the family is not doing their fair share?
  • Feel guilty most of the time?
  • Have the urge to physically and verbally abuse my elder at times?
  • Have bouts of feeling inadequate and helpless?
  • Often feel enraged?
  • Think I could and should be doing a better job of caregiving?
  • Feel out of control?
  • Have difficulty saying “no?”
  • Tend to please people at my expense?
  • Resist asking and accepting help from others?

Am I . . .

  • Overeating or eating the wrong kinds of food?
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs?
  • Not getting any physical exercise?
  • Crying frequently?
  • Lacking fun and laughter in my life?
  • Depleting my own financial resources?
  • Late for work or missing work?
  • Letting my job performance slip?
  • Sleep deprived?
  • Experiencing chronic health issues like headaches and lingering colds?
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