There are moments within the caregiving experience after which everything changes. A game changer. A tipping point. This is often an unwelcome, unanticipated wake-up call that requires a response from caregivers and care receivers—a change in plans or perhaps an increased level of care. While tipping points come in a variety of guises, all tipping points precipitate a caregiving crisis that necessitates a change in the plan of care.
One of the more challenging aspects of aging, illness, and caregiving is lack/loss of control. Granted, we like to believe we are in control. We love the illusion of control. But the reality is this—there are some things beyond our control. So, focus your time, attention, and energy on aspects of the journey you can affect. You and yours will be much better served in the long run.
As we all know, the journey of caregiving is comprised of twists and turns, ups and downs, joys and sorrows. Dealing with the changing landscape is challenging indeed. Perhaps by realizing that everything is temporary, we would be more tolerant of the bad times and more appreciative of the good times. A perspective certainly worthy of consideration.
Let’s be honest. The journey of caregiving can be stressful for everyone involved. Caring for family members or friends can be physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, and psychosocially. And similarly, being cared for by family members and friends can be stressful. Stress is an inherent part of the journey of caregiving. So, we are wise to understand the concept of stress, potential sources of stress, and the consequences of unmitigated stress. By so doing, perhaps we’ll be motivated to recognize and to better manage the various sources of our stress.
If you are like most caregivers, you probably feel a wee bit guilty taking a little time for yourself. Right? Today, I would like to address the issue of guilt in the context of caregiving. Caregiving is hard enough without adding the extra burden of guilt. Perhaps by recognizing the common sources of guilt, we can begin to intentionally lighten the load.
Our ability to successfully navigate the rough waters posed by life depends on our attitude. Viktor Frankl taught an entire generation that we cannot control everything that happens in life. However, we always have the freedom to choose an attitude in response to life. And that choice ultimately determines our experience of life. Do you choose to be a victim of life and succumb to the perceived inequities? Or, will you courageously accept the reality of your situation and seek life-giving possibilities? Consider your answer carefully. Your life depends on it!
Boundaries are necessary behavioral constructs if we are to have healthy relationships with other people. We need to be aware of where we end and the other person begins. Boundaries serve to protect both persons, honoring and respecting each individual. Well-conceived and well-managed boundaries are ultimately a blessing to all involved in the journey of caregiving.
My godmother, Aunt Jane, was one of my greatest mentors. She was full of life! I always thought of her as my personal Auntie Mame. She lived life large to say the very least. She married a man, my Uncle Doc, who was 12 years her senior. She always knew that she would probably outlive him. However, she never imagined she would outlive all of her friends as well. By witnessing the journey of my beloved Aunt Jane, I learned how hard it is to be the last one standing.
For most people rooted in Western culture, it is difficult to ask for and receive help from other people. However, the reality is that we will all need help due to the challenges posed by aging and/or illness. So, how are we to overcome our resistance to assistance? Well, our friend the goose has much to teach us about giving and receiving care. Look to the skies. As geese fly in formation, they embody the essential ingredients of collaborative care: shared leadership, interdependence, self care, encouragement, and trusted relationships. This is not a “fly by night” approach to care! If we choose to emulate the collaborative flight of geese, all involved in the caregiving journey will be well served.
As professional or personal caregivers, we witness the suffering of others – physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. To witness the pain and suffering of others is to be forever changed. Compassionate people bear the suffering of others and often times compromise their own health and well being when they assume too much of the burden. We must always be aware of where we end and the other person begins – the importance of boundaries. We can companion others in life, but we cannot assume the responsibility for another’s life. To do so puts us at risk of experiencing compassion fatigue, a risk for all who care.
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