By Karen Bromberg
As most of you know, I lost my parents late last year; my mother in early November and my father in early December. For years my husband and I were their caregivers, gladly giving our time and energy to focus on their well-being then, all of a sudden, it was over.
I’ve spent a lot of time this last year thinking about what we, as caregivers, do as we care for our loved one(s) and how we put their needs, their well being, ahead of our own as we put our own mental and physical health at risk.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Of course we want to make sure to take care of our loved one(s). We want to make sure that they are well tended to, are safe, healthy and happy. That goes without saying. But as one who put her mental and physical health aside while caring for her parents, I’m here to tell you that we can take care of our loved one(s) and ourselves as well. It doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.
How We Can Be Our Own Best Caregivers
It feel obvious to say, but one of the things I realized this past year was how much I put my needs on the back burner. Proper diet. Exercise. Taking my supplements. Who had the time? Who had the energy? Or the desire? All I wanted to do was take care of what I needed to take care of then flop down and watch TV.
I fell into unhealthy habits, which makes total sense. With no time and no energy, as humans we usually default to the path of least resistance. Grabbing whatever we can for dinner. Putting off seeing out friends.
But what if we started doing this caregiving thing a little differently? What if instead of putting our needs last, we fold them into whatever we need to do for our loved one(s)? In essence, we become caregivers to ourselves as well.
How do we do that?
- Making sure that we eat a good breakfast in addition to making sure that Mom eats a good breakfast.
- Making sure that we have people to socialize with (and no, I don’t mean chit-chatting with co-workers over the “water cooler” at work or visiting the in-laws for Sunday dinner – unless, of course, you like your in-laws and you enjoy going to their home for Sunday dinner) in addition to making sure Dad has people to socialize with.
- Making sure that we keep our doctor’s appointments in addition to making sure that our spouse keeps his or her appointments.
It’s no shock to say that we are caregivers because we care. It’s who we are. It’s in our DNA. Our loved one(s) are important to us and caring for them gives us a joy that we wouldn’t otherwise experience, but it doesn’t have to put our health at risk. We can take care for our loved one(s) and we can take care of ourselves. It doesn’t have to be nor should it be an either/or proposition.
What do you think? I’d love to know.
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her, either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone 929-276-2109.