Too many organizations, books and nonprofit organizations focus on the person with the illness, but one person is seldom the only one impacted by the diagnosis. We assume that people in our lives are obliged to care for us during our times of need, but is it done willfully and without resentment? In most cases the answer is Yes. However, just like the person who is facing the illness has a road to recovery so does the caregiver.
Caregivers are a unique bunch because the research and my own experiences shows that overwhelming caregiving is done by women. The order in which caregiving occurs is the following: wife, mother or daughter, sister, sister-in-law. What happened to all the men? Of course this isn’t an absolute, there are plenty of men who care for the women in their lives, but overall women do it the majority of the time.
My hope is that caregivers find outlets to recharge their batteries. It’s like when you listen to the flight attendant giving the safety instructions…”put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then assist those around you who may need your help”. There is a reason for this sequence, it’s not about being selfish, but you’ll be better equipped to help others if you make sure you have the tools you need so you can keep on providing the necessary care to the person facing the life-altering diagnosis.
Think of it this way…If I give you a penny and ask you to give it away you’re left with nothing. If I give you two pennies and ask you to give one away you still have a penny-everyone wins. Caregiving has to included win-win situations. If not you’ll become depleted and you can’t squeeze blood out of a stone.
Many organizations provide support groups for the support person(s) of those facing an illness. Those organizations are forward thinking because it gives you, the caregiver, the opportunity to discover coping mechanisms that will keep your battery running. It will also give you an opportunity to experience a community of your own. Caregiving is often very lonely and breaking the silence gives you support.
How are you handling your caregiving situation? Share tips with us so that we can all benefit.
It came to my attention that I need to make caregiving articles a regular part of this dialogue. Look for the weekly caregiver entry on Fridays…a chance to start your weekend with a bang.