by Joy Loverde
When you are a family caregiver, there are many reasons why you may feel compelled to shoulder too much responsibility and become overly involved in your elders’ lives. Whether we are caring for an aging parent or elderly spouse or partner, feeling needed and useful is a positive life-enhancing experience. However, doing more than is necessary creates problems – and lots of them. Too much assistance and too much attention are equally harmful for the caregiver and the care receiver.
Although first-hand care for the people you love can, at first, result in a positive, tangible boost to the quality of their lives, when you go overboard and do too much for them, not only are you standing on the brink of getting sick, or worse yet, depressed, you also stand the chance of eroding the care receiver’s sense of dignity and competence. Family caregivers in the burnout stage will exhibit a variety of symptoms including chronic physical illnesses, ongoing feelings of helplessness, and disillusionment.
Is this something “nice to do” or is this a “have to do?” That is the number one question we need to be asking ourselves on a moment-to-moment basis. People often ask me what I mean by this. The concept is really quite simple. Averting family caregiver stress, illness or depression requires that you become more in tune with the time-management concept of “nice to do” versus “have to do.”
If you stop and think about it, how many times do you hop to and get your Mom a glass of water when she is quite capable of getting one herself? She needs the exercise every bit as you do. When you know for sure that your elders are safe and capable of performing perform day-to-day tasks for themselves, you’ll be doing both of you a favor by backing off and letting them do the task themselves.