Caring for someone you love isn’t always as easy as Johnny Cash and June Carter made it seem. It’s not easy to see a loved one’s health failing or to watch as the struggle to accomplish tasks that were once easy. It can be just as difficult logistically as emotionally as well, when you consider that many people who find themselves in the caregiver position are also juggling careers, marriages, and even their own children. That’s why it’s so important to find ways to streamline and simplify caregiving. Like learning the guitar, the chords might be tough at first but with a few tips you’ll soon have the melody down:
Just like anything else, caregiving will be easier if you learn as much about it as possible. Talk to your loved one’s physicians and therapists, and do as much research on their conditions and needs as possible. Seek out others in the caregiving community, whether professionals or fellow family members with aging loved ones. Make others’ experience part of your experience. Like the old saying goes, knowledge is power. It will help you make informed decisions and to full discuss options with your loved one to find the best possible solutions for their needs.
Balance the emotional experience of caregiving with objectivity whenever possible. Use all that research and learning as a counterweight to the highs and lows you will go through in your new role. For example, it’s not always easy to admit that perhaps professional care or a retirement community would be the best solution if you have your heart set on at-home care. Many caregivers are afraid they will seem dismissive or unloving if they choose a retirement community or assisted living over at-home care, though it may be a better solution in practice. Others are unsure how to weight financial factors over quality of care. Use your head and your heart together to make the best choices.
Take care of yourself! Often being a great caretaker is just as much about self-care as caregiving. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat right, and save time to exercise. Carve out some time for your hobbies, and don’t feel like you can’t take a trip or even a weekend staycation. Even if it means finding a temporary professional to step in for you, it’s important for you to maintain your ability to give without over extending yourself. Especially when you also have the demands of a career, your children, and a marriage to nurture, it’s important to put in a little work to keep your whole life in balance. It will be better for everyone involved in the long run.
Simply by approaching caregiving thoughtfully and compassionately you can make it a simpler, more rewarding experience with greater benefits for you and your loved one. Pretty soon you’ll be singing a happy tune as you balance caregiving with the other areas of your life.