Lessons from Caring for the Caregiver

Have you looked at the definition for caregiver or caretaker recently? If you are like me, you have not. Researching this article, I decided to look into it. Here is what I found.

Caregiver is defined by The Free Dictionary as:
Nancy Kalina
1. An individual, such as a physician, nurse, or social worker, who assists in the identification, prevention, or treatment of an illness or disability.
2. An individual, such as a parent, foster parent, or head of a household, who attends to the needs of a child or dependent adult.

No wonder no one ever wants to consider themselves a caregiver. These two definitions are awfully limiting. The definitions provided are fragments of the full caregiving picture. I believe we are all caregivers in one form or another.

It appears as if there is an unwritten rule that you are a caregiver only if you live in the house with the child or dependent adult. What about all the folks who are supporting a loved one from another home or even another state? I fit into this category. I don’t take care of my aunt’s daily needs. However, my brother and I have supported her through hospitalizations, anxiety and a move to assisted living. Additionally, the above definitions imply that conditions are chronic and the caregivers’ role is permanent. What about people who take care of loved ones when they are sick or are recovering from surgery? What about teachers? What about parents? What about kids who take care of parents who have had too much to drink? What about friends who support one another over the phone when one of them is having a difficult time with life? These are all caregivers.

It is important to honor ourselves as caregivers. Caregiving is a divine act, especially when it is a person’s choice. By honoring our acts we are recognizing and owning this role, and that is the first step to caring for ourselves when we are in a caregiver role. Caregivers tend to give, give and then give some more. I have coached many folks who are caregivers of one kind or another, and they often state that they feel they have lost their identities, as if caregiving is all that they are. This can happen all too easily. Hence the importance of realizing that we as human beings must nurture and care for ourselves in addition to others. While caregiving is a wonderful thing to do, it can be draining.

When you recognize your current situation for what it is, you become aware that you may have needs or desires that are not being met because you are so busy caring for others. Then you can tell yourself, “I want some time for me to take of myself.” The point here is not to stop caregiving. Not at all. It’s awesome when one human helps another in need. The point is to recognize if your role has changed, even temporarily.

I had a hip replacement surgery in 2007. Two weeks prior to surgery, my partner suggested that I create a “gimp watch.” She planned to return to work after I came home from my surgery, but we both were aware that the doctor’s orders were that I was not to be alone for the first two weeks. Kim knew that her role would change dramatically the moment I went in for surgery and her “responsibilities” would increase tremendously once I got home from the hospital. For one thing, I would be unable to help with usual daily household tasks. Interestingly, we also found out that I was unable to get in and out of bed by myself, and while I had exercises that were in my best interest to complete, I was physically unable to do them by myself. Doing my physical therapy required hands-on assistance initially.

Having me create a list of people who were scheduled to come in and support me — the “gimp watch” — allowed Kim some respite via her job. While she was the caregiver each night, she could go to work each day comfortable in the knowledge that I had help during the day. I want to be clear that Kim would never have been able to take such good care of me if she had not first acknowledged that while she was still the partner who loved me, she was also going to temporarily be my main caregiver. Acknowledging this gave Kim permission to take care of herself. It also allowed her to give care to me with love and not resentment.

Let me encourage you to get honest with yourself! That is where it all begins. Where in your life are you caregiving? Acknowledge it. Commend yourself for being so loving because you are! Then make sure you take time to take care of yourself. What feeds your soul? What de-stresses you? What makes you laugh? What relaxes you? Nurture yourself first so that you have energy to nurture others. And above all else, realize that you deserve it!


Sharing Corner

I want to share with you that I have started a blog on my website. The subject of the blog is a young woman named Pendah who is, like all of us, on a journey. Pendah has graciously agreed to let me blog about her journey as she attempts to physically heal and reach her dream of playing basketball for Indiana University as a walk-on. (Does anyone hear echos of Rudy, the movie about the young man who realized his seemingly unreachable dream of playing football for Notre Dame?)

Here is the link to my very new blog.

Who has heard of Thrill the World? Thrill the World is basically a celebration of Michael Jackson. Every year thousands of people across the globe dance to “Thriller” simultaneously. This year, my partner and I joined in the festivities! Why? Because everyone can benefit from having more fun in their life! Rehearsing “Thriller,” making new friends and performing “Thriller” in full zombie garb is nothing less than a real good time! Check out this video of the Thrill the World, Bloomington, Ind., 2012 group performing this great dance on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012.



Enjoy this Ralph Marston slideshow and permit yourself to take time for yourself today and every day!


Until next time,

Safe Space Life Coaching

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