Welcome to Caregiver Friday!
I hope you had an event free holiday season. Earlier this week I wrote an article about “is the crazy over?” capturing the sentiments of many over the past few weeks. Now that the holidays are over we all get to start fresh. Think about it as a contract that expires at the end of a year and now it’s time to re-assess what worked and what didn’t work in 2008.
I present the caregiver/wellness partner experience in this manner because sometimes it’s hard to break habits both good and bad without some delineation of time or event. The New Year is a great time to take stock of what you feel made you a successful wellness partner in 2008 and what actions, ideas, judgments are to be sent to the shredder with the Christmas tree.
The truth is that limit setting is difficult. Once we take on a role it’s hard to give it up for two reasons; we’ve boxed ourselves in and others just naturally expect us to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Remember, nothing in this world is cast in cement. You have the option of changing how you do things at any step along the way. The last thing you want to hear from anyone is “just one more thing”. It’s bad enough you say it to yourself, but when it comes from an outside source it can be maddening.
You may have a fabulous marriage with the person you’re caring for or a wonderful friendship, but caregiving added to the mix shifts things and that can’t be ignored. This is a good time of year to do the “168 experiment”. There are only 168 hours in a week, no more, no less. Start with a piece of paper and at the top put 168. Start creating a list of activities and put how many hours a week it takes. Don’t forget to include sleep. If you sleep 7 hours a night (and I know for some of you that’s a luxury) it means you need to deduct 49 hours on your first line of your time budget. Continue with the number of hours your work, commute, food shop, drive kids, pick up dry cleaning, go to the bank, cook, clean the house, etc. I think you’ll be surprised and scared at how quickly time gets sucked up. How much time do you have for you? Do you really believe that you can keep up this schedule for the long haul.
I understand that if someone has a terminal illness that the long hours of caregiving may be intensified, but if the person is approaching the end of their life that commitment (at least in action) is time limited. For those of you caring for someone whose illness is chronic or is life-threatening but has an extended period of illness, how long can you keep up that schedule with no time for you?
Let 2009 be the year of creativity and innovation. I really recommend Michael Gelb’s book, How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci. The book, although much of it is geared toward business, really shines a light on how to think differently about life challenges. It follows seven principles that you can use to augment your life of possibility.
I wish you and your loved ones a healing, happy and joyous 2009!