Spiritual Needs of Caregivers Series

                                                     Part 2 - Taking Care of Yourself


Caring for an ill loved one takes a lot of energy and somehow, that energy needs to be replenished to avoid getting sick yourself.  Where do you acquire energy?  Are you energized by spending time with friends or loved ones?  Does being quiet and alone recharge you or is exercise your outlet?  However you re-energize yourself, it is vital do take the time to do so when caring for seriously ill loved ones.  “This is easy for me to say”, you might think, “You are not the one with an ill loved one.  Do you realize how hard it is to get away when you are the primary caregiver for someone?” Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. 

The reality that it is difficult, is exactly the reason you need respite of some sort.  As a primary caregiver, you do not need to fall into the Messiah Complex!  That will drag you down until your energy reserves are empty.  Then you risk becoming sick yourself.  There is enough stress connected with caregiving, no matter how much we love the person who is ill, you do not need to compound it by becoming sick. 

Even though some of the following suggestions are simple, it might be very difficult to ask for help!  Ask someone else in the family to take one or two blocks of time in the afternoon or evening so you can do some of the things you need to do.  As caregivers, we can get possessive of your loved one’s care, but you do not need to become the martyr.  That is unhealthy for you and for your loved one.  It can also cause resentment among other family members.  They might actually want some alone time with their loved one too.  Do not deny them that time by always being around.  Capitalize on the times others want to spend time and get out of the house!  It will be more beneficial for your loved one to spend time with others alone.  Perhaps they have something to clear up between them or just need to spend time together.  Either way, it is a chance for you to recharge!  If there are no family members available, approach members from your place of worship.  If all else fails, hire an agency like Seniors Helping Seniors to come in for a couple of hours once or twice a week to be with the patient. 

So, now that you have some time to yourself, without guilt, what will you do? The first question to answer is, what do you enjoy?  Maybe it is some time alone at the beach, at the park in the woods.  Perhaps it is just some time at the coffee shop or church to be quiet and pray.  Then again, you might need the support of friends to help you laugh.  Go to a funny movie together, a comedy club or a party.  It is okay to have fun!  It is necessary for some people to include humor in their lives when the reality of illness or reduced ability is present. 

If the person for whom you are caring is not your spouse, perhaps you need to make some time for her or him. Their presence in your life may be just the loving touch and tenderness you need.  If your spouse is not that kind of support, seek out your best friend.  Being cared for in the midst of caregiving helps to balance your need for someone to care for and about you.

When you take the time to take care of yourself, you will be able to resume your caregiving duties with a renewed spirit and love.  Don’t you agree that is beneficial for both you and your loved one?

by Joanne Nugent-Ward