As a caregiver, you have to be realistic about what can and can't be controlled. You can't control the fact that your loved one has a chronic or progressive disease or the impact of that disease. But you CAN control how you respond to the situation.
The first step is taking ownership of your caregiver role and admitting that it might be a long-term job. This acknowledgement allows you to plan and seek help. By accepting the job and putting a name on it, you will be less inclined to set yourself up for stress and emotions that prevent you from seeking help.
The next step is to understand the scope of long-term caregiving. Think of caregiving as a marathon, not a sprint. Marathoners get through a race by pacing themselves and getting sustenance and water along the way. A lot of people throw themselves into a "caregiving frenzy" that quickly leads to emotional and physical burnout. Understand that long-term caregiving can have long-term effects. Set your pace for a long race and accept the reality that you will need help along the way. The earlier you understand pacing and asking for help, the better you and your loved one will do.
Be Realistic. Think Positive.
Your attitude can be the biggest barrier to taking care of yourself and doing the best job for your loved one. Your mind will believe what you tell it. Tell it that you're a caregiver, that you need to stay healthy, that you have rights and that you will do the best you can but you'll have to find help for certain things.
Being realistic and thinking positive are easier if you:
- Take ownership of your role as a caregiver. "I am a caregiver. It's a tough job, but I can do it."
- Pace yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Seek sustenance and help along the way.
- Admit your feelings, whether they are sorrow, anger, resentment or fear. Get help if you can't control them.
- Admit that you cannot control the impact of the disease on your loved one.
- Admit you need help with caregiving. Seek help and ask for specific things.
- Listen to your body and respond. When it needs food, exercise, rest or medical attention, make sure to give it what it needs.
- Learn the signs of chronic depression and get treatment. A weekly visit to a counselor can ease immense amounts of stress.
- Organize your resources to allow time for your personal life. Keep living.
- Communicate with other caregivers. They'll understand what you're going through and offer comfort and help.
- Stay connected with the outside world, even if it has to be online. Don't get isolated.
- Insist on getting respite care (outside help to care for your loved one for periods of time), even when your loved one resists the idea.
- Teach your mind to think in positive terms.
- Stick to the present. Do what you have to do today. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. You can plan for the future but you can't worry it into submission.
- Get enough sleep. It's easier if you avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and heavy meals near bedtime and try to take a hot bath before going to sleep.