If you care for a loved one, whether in their home or in yours, you know it is a full-time job.  And, because it is a job to be taken seriously, it is not simply 9 to 5.  Sometimes it can last 24-hours a day.  This can be IS exhausting.  Often caregivers in this situation are so dedicated to the task that they allow their own physical and mental health to suffer.

Respite care is defined as professional caregiving offered to spell the primary caregiver so he or she can get away from the routine and “take a breather”.  Utilizing respite care can significantly improve the attitude of the caregiver even if it is only for a few hours a day or week.

How does a caregiver know if he or she needs to employ respite care?  Here are a few symptoms:

  • Feeling isolated. Caregivers spend the majority of their time with their care patients with little other outside contact.
  • Anxiety, depression, exhaustion. Caregivers often have a sense of feeling perpetually overwhelmed.
  • Compassion fatigue. This can result in resentment that can impact the mental health of the caregiver and the quality of the care of the loved one.
  • Guilt. This is a feeling that because of any of the above, the caregiver has a feeling of having wronged the person for whom they are caring.

Guilt-free break

How long has it been since you have had a chance to distance  yourself from caregiving long enough to assess what is good for you, the caregiver?  When was your last “guilt-free break”?  Is it time to seek help so that you can take some time to recharge yourself?

If you have not made yourself a priority in the equation recently, you are not alone.  While many personal caregivers suffer from mental, financial and logistical hurdles, they often ignore their own self-care.  By changing your thinking about your self-interests, it does not mean that you care any less about the person for whom you are caring, rather changing your mindset can be a clear indication of the depth of your love for that person.\

What Your Loved-one Would Want

The fact is that the person for whom you are caring is sometimes a crabby person.  When faced with a reduced ability to make his or her own decisions and add emotional or physical pain and it is understandable.  This does not mean that the person for whom you care does not care about your welfare.  It just means that their ill health and age-related discomforts take priority on the things about which they focus.

Try to remember the person for whom you care as he or she was before they became difficult and needing of your help.  How did you experience them?  What joint plans for the future did you share?  Certainly, they wanted  you to be happy, healthy and successful.  Keep these things in mind as you experience the current situation.  And, remember that the same person who may be self-centered today is the same person who cared for you before the situation changed.

If the person in question has always been manipulative and self-absorbed then it is time for you to carefully examine your relationship as a primary caregiver.  The caregiving relationship is difficult enough when the relationship has a healthy foundation.  When that foundation is not there, any feelings of guilt or obligation can create a disastrous emotional chasm.  In such a situation, it may be better for all concerned to bring in a professional caregiver to manage the situation more dispassionately.

Learn to be “Selfish”

It may be hard to accept, but you will be a better caregiver if you allow yourself to be just a little “selfish”.  A refreshed caregiver will be more attentive and patient.  Remember that your tone and body language will tell the person for whom you are caring the truth of your attitude regardless of how much you may try to “fake it”.  When you are rested all parties will have a better interpersonal experience.

Take care of yourself.  Acknowledge that you need help and get it.