By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com
Why is it so hard for a caregiver to switch into “me” mode?
Caregivers are constantly being told that they need to find time for themselves, whether that be looking for respite care, taking their loved ones to an adult day center, or just going for a short walk to get out of the house.
But, for a person who is used to taking care of someone else, finding the time to relax is often easier than actually being able to relax.
Cindy Laverty, caregiver coach, radio talk show host, and author of Caregiving: Eldercare Made Clear and Simple, experienced this dilemma first-hand when she became the primary caregiver for her ex-husband’s father and mother. Laverty says that she was so consumed with the need to remain in control and take care of everything in her in-laws’ lives; that she neglected to take care of herself in the beginning stages of her caregiving journey. This led to a brush with extreme caregiver burnout and a resolve to re-think her approach to caregiving.
Laverty says there are certain thoughts that may prevent a caregiver from truly relaxing:
1. “I need to be in charge of everything that has to do with my loved one’s care.” Laverty says that caregivers sometimes find it difficult to let go of their caregiving mindset—even when their mind and body are screaming at them to take a break. “You can’t be in charge of everything,” Laverty says, “People take on the role of caregiver thinking that they can do everything for six months, but, in this world, that role can last for years, even decades.”
2. “I can’t stop worrying that something will go wrong if I’m not there.” Some caregivers, when offered the opportunity to take a breather, find that they can’t stop their minds from running through dozens of “What if…?” scenarios. What if my mother falls and the respite caregiver can’t pick her up? What if my father has another stroke while I’m gone? These kinds of thoughts can make a caregiver incapable of relaxing, even when they’re away from the person they’re caring for.
3. “I shouldn’t be enjoying myself while my loved one needs care.” Laverty admits that when she first started out taking care of her elderly relatives, she put herself in the position of being “on call” all of the time, despite the fact that she had access to additional caregivers who were able to help. Guilt can make a caregiver feel as though they’re being selfish by taking some time for themselves. A guilt-ridden caregiver who does decide to take some time away may find themselves so consumed by regret that it’s impossible to relax.
It’s normal for caregivers to experience these thought patterns at certain times.
Relaxing: Why It’s Hard, and How Caregivers Can Learn to Unwind originally appeared in AgingCare.com.