Does the picture this Reader’s Question paints of a caregiver’s life sound like yours?
I have been a caregiver for my mother for the past 5 years. My mother lives alone and has a full time aide, but I am the “go-to” person for all calls, decisions, issues that arise, and the constant check-ins that my mother seems to require.
I’m also married, I work full time, I manage my home, and…that’s it! Lately I keep thinking about how much I would love to have a life beyond the limited routine I just described. I feel shut off from the rest of the world, and I don’t know what to do to break out of the isolation and exhaustion that has become my life.
I cannot be the only caregiver who feels so disconnected and alone, but it certainly feels that way. I am at a stage in my life when I should be able to enjoy my life fully, but instead I feel too exhausted and burnt out to even feel all the benefits I should from a night out or a weekend away. Any suggestions?
~ Hidden From Life
Here’s My Response:
Yes! Being a caregiver, even when there is outside help, is exhausting. It takes its toll mentally and emotionally, as well as physically – and this feeling of depletion very often does lead to state of isolation and deprivation.
The following are steps you can take to mitigate and reduce some of this stress, pressure, and burnout. Make a commitment to yourself to start putting them into practice this weekend!
- Develop New Awareness of your feelings and needs is the first step. Of course, when you quiet your other thoughts about your to-do list, etc. so you can practice being aware, it’s important to breathe through the initial thought that pops up. It may be “There’s nothing I can do,” “I am powerless to change this.” or a similar statement of defeat. Breathe…and go on to explore your feelings and needs.
- Promise to Keep Thinking Outside the Box. Yes, there are options and new possibilities. You’ll discover them as you practice looking for activities, solutions and resources in places you haven’t before. Remember Einstein’s wonderful quote:
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
~ Albert Einstein
- What is Your Desired Outcome? It’s imperative that you ask this question, and keep your answer in mind at all times, in order to make changes in your life. It must be answered in terms of what you want, NOT what you don’t want. And it must be something over which you yourself have control. Want a stress-free evening out with friends, or some time away to relax and recharge your batteries, etc? This is the first step, to clearly and definitively set your intention. Then keep it in your conscious awareness.
- Setting Boundaries is the next step to making a change in your circumstances. It may be having a “no discussion about mom” evening out. It may be turning off your cell phone for the evening. This can be set up ahead of time with your mother’s aide, so she’ll know to either prevent your mom from calling you, or be ready to calm your mother down when you are not answering. I recommend starting with some of the smaller, easier boundaries such as these That way you’ll experience some successes before you move on and dive into a bigger goal of going away for any length of time. There are other options for new boundaries that I can help you explore – see below for information about two ways I can help you do that, at no cost.
- Breathe Through the Fear! Making changes brings up fears, doubts, and feelings of guilt. They’re just background noise, so acknowledge them and then refocus on your intention. Your needs matter, and it’s imperative that you take as good care of yourself as you do of your mother. That means making time to enjoy the life you and your husband have worked to create. Although it’s become a habit to devote so much time, energy and attention to caring for your mother, you can let go of that habit.
- Practice, Patience, Perseverance: If and when you know you really want something different from what you currently have, you will need to practice focusing regularly on your desired outcome, practice setting and maintaining your new boundary, and practice consciously honoring your journey to take back your life in the midst of your overwhelm.
Need additional support, guidance and encouragement to take as good care of yourself as you do of others in your life, click HERE to download my free 3-part Step-By-Step Guide for Family Caregivers. Then reach out for a complimentary 30 minute consultation with me.
You do not have to go through the journey of caregiving alone….
And we breathe,