Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Care Partner Wednesday--It's All About Time

Have you ever run into an old friend you haven’t seen for a long time? After the obligatory, “Hi, how are you?” the answer is inevitably, “Busy.”

We wear “busy” like a badge of honour. Our time is full, and somehow that makes us better, more important people.

For care partners, balancing life is especially challenging. The T in care partner is for time.

Full time care partners have the biggest challenge. For them, the demands can be unrelenting, as day runs into night. Unending tasks, lack of sleep, appointments and repetitive conversations fill the days and stretch incessantly. They wonder, “Can I stay the course?”

To the full time care partner, I say get help. Everyone and no one is a hero in this situation. You are a hero for being there when you want to run away, or when all you really want is a full night’s sleep. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you are the only one who can provide care, or that you are somehow less caring or giving when you take advantage of the many supports that are out there. Government programs, respite care, friends, family—there is help available, and you need to use as much as you can. You will be no help to your loved one if you get sick or burn out.

Care partners who have an elder living in care, also struggle. Sometimes, it’s trying to make the right care decisions when the answer isn’t obvious. Sometimes, it’s trying to balance home, family, work and time with their elder. Guilt raises its ugly head and it’s difficult to make wise decisions with all the pulls on your time. “When are you coming to visit? I thought you were coming today.” A friendly conversation becomes a burden of guilt and even anger.

To this care partner, I say set boundaries. A frank discussion, sometimes held over several weeks and months, assures your elder of your love, and lays out clearly what you can and can’t do. “I can come one night a week to have dinner with you, I can take you to appointments, I can bring the grandchildren to spend time with you. I can’t be here every night, or even talk to you every day on the phone.” Time together needs to be enriching for both of you, not burdened by misplaced obligation.

All care partners need to remember this: time is finite.

This week, I saw two special care partners say good-bye to their elders. No matter what the age, the experience is wrenching, and terribly final. In the midst of whatever challenges you are having, remember this: someday it will end. Someday, you will have to say good-bye, and your time with your loved one will be over.

Time. A precious commodity.


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