Spiritual Needs of Caregivers Series
Part 3 – Relationships with Others
By: Joanne Nugent-Ward
Another aspect of spirituality is your relationships with other people. While engaged with caregiving, you also need others. They need you as well. It is easy to become myopic when someone you love is in need of care and you are the one providing that care. It is so important during these times to remember that you have others in your life as well. Focusing so entirely upon your sick loved one can cause hurt feelings with others in your life.
In my last blog, I spoke about how important it is to take care of yourself. Now, you might think, you want me to take care of others too. Yes, but maybe not in the way you think. Remember when we discussed getting together with others to do things when you do take time for yourself? Including those in your life who you love and need you is the perfect way to accomplish this! You can take time out with them, not as an obligation, but as a joy. Perception is vital in this area. Instead of looking at your time with others as a drudgery which takes you away from your caregiver role, embrace it as a time to deepen your relationship with others in your life.
For example, your teenaged daughter might really miss the special time you used to have together before the illness of your loved one. Perhaps you could use this time to connect with her by going out for a meal or going to a movie. Another example might be your best friend, who has always been there for you and you for her. Going out for a few drinks or to a show you both want to see might be a wonderful way to reconnect and nurture that friendship. Relationships are so important to maintain when someone we care about is sick.
We have to realize that the one who is receiving care has relationships with others as well. They need to connect with others beside their care giver. As mentioned in my last blog, there might be people they need to see with whom to come to some forgiveness. At these times, it is important for us as caregivers to step back and let that happen, especially if the loved one has a terminal illness. They might have a need to make things right with people we do not like or have a resentment against. Getting in the way of that reconciliation might cause more harm than good, even when you think you are protecting your loved one and that you are within your rights to deny someone access to them. When someone is dying they need to be able to mend fences and forgive others or ask for forgiveness. This is a grace that could make the difference between dying peacefully and having left things unfinished.
Your love for the person who is ill is not in question. You work very hard to make sure that all of their physical and emotional needs are met. Give yourself the gift of staying I touch with others while you are in the process of caring for someone. Your needs are important too, but so are those of the people who love you and need to be with you. Use opportunities that are provided by others who wish to visit with your loved one to take time to be with your other support persons. All those involved will be positively affected.