The thing about caregiving, is that even when the physical demands aren't difficult (such as when someone else is doing the physical care) the emotional demands are huge. How do you deal with watching deterioration in someone you love? How do you keep up with a constantly changing situation? How do you do this without falling apart inside?
There's no perfect answer to this, but many strategies. Everyone needs to find their own road.
4. Stay in touch with family and friends
One of the aspects of caregiving can be that your world shrinks. Part of it is the time that caring for your loved one takes, whether it's visiting, transporting to appointments, arranging legal and financial matters or hands-on care. It just takes time, and that it time you aren't available for other pursuits. Because of the time commitment, there is less energy and it is so easy to turn down opportunities to be with family (especially extended family) or friends. It's so tempting to say, "I can't right now. Mother needs me."
Don't do it. Those people you are turning down are your support system. They are the ones who, even though they may not totally understand, will listen and be a sounding board. They are the ones to take you away for a day or an evening, and give you the opportunity to laugh. Some of them are long-term relationships, and you need to find a time to nurture them. There may be times when your friend or family member can visit your loved one with you. (Another person in the room can give the visit a whole different dynamic, and take some pressure off you.)
Keep connected. You need your friends and family.
5. Make healthy choices about nutrition, exercise and sleep.
This isn't rocket science, but it can be incredibly hard. Again, it's a time issue. If your time is taken with caregiving, it's easy to grab something quick rather than make a proper meal. Fast food is the answer too often.
When my husband was in the hospital, I would go there straight from work, and eat whatever I could pick up there. At about 9:00, I would come home, arriving after 10:00. I couldn't do anything about dinner, but tried to have a healthy breakfast and lunch. I walked to the subway to get a little exercise. And although I would at times sleep the sleep of the exhausted, and sometimes not sleep at all, I tried to rest when I could.
The bottom line is, you do what you can. Every choice you make that is healthy for you will make you stronger, and more able to continue your caregiving task.
Which is what it's all about, right?
More next week...