Keeping it at Arm’s Length
Sometimes when you have a very consuming problem, it can so take over your life that you forget the rest of life’s responsibilities and relationships. That is certainly a danger that caregivers are faced with. It is easy to become so wrapped up in the demands of being a good caregiver for your aging parent or loved one that the rest of the world seems to disappear.
This is never a healthy way to take on the challenge of care giving. Not only would it be terrible for your family, job and friends to see you vanish into the task of care giving and never be available for anyone else, its also a bad idea for both you and your elderly parent for you to obsess that much.
This is a formula for caregiver burnout which can lead to medical problems, loss of sleep, eating disorders and maybe even a nervous breakdown. So the healthy approach to being a caregiver is to keep the demands of that part of your life at arm’s length so you can establish a balance between your life with your senior citizen and work and family life as well.
One way to begin laying the groundwork for keeping that balance in right ratio to your life is to have an honest talk about the issue with your elderly parent who you are caring for. Sometimes the force draws you in to want to give it all to the task of care giving is coming from them. But if you talk about it in a rational way when both of you are rested and thinking calmly, your parent will see that she does not want you to give up your life to be her caregiver exclusively. Oh sure, sometimes when she is sad or lonely, she says things like “I wish you could stay here all the time.” But that is not rational and she knows you need to be a mature adult and take care of your job responsibilities and your spouse and children as well.
Another person you should have a frank discussion about the demands you are going through as a caregiver for your elderly parent is your boss at work. In the modern world, businesses need hard working and well trained individuals like you. And this is a time when a lot of baby boomers are becoming “sandwich generation” people and have that additional demand of caring for an elderly parent along with home and work responsibilities. So your work will want to work with you to get through this rather than lose you entirely.
Your employer may be able to work with you to give you some flexibility so that if you have to have time during the day to take your parent to the doctors or attend to some other need in your parents life, you can make up the time or attend to your work in other ways. Many employers will even allow you to take work home with you and split your time between the office, your family life and your care giving responsibilities. There are even extended leave programs that some larger companies have where you can take a few months off to care for your parent during a time when you must give her all of your time. This is invaluable during time when you are moving her from her own home to the assisted living center or if your parent is terminally ill and you need to be constantly available in those last months of her life.
Above all, solicit the support and love of your spouse and kids. If mommy has to be over at grandmas every evening for a few hours, it may call on the dad and kids to whip up some macaroni and cheese or just get in the car and go get some fast food to cut mom some slack to take care of the needs of that aging senior citizen. Your family, your work associates and your friends can handle giving you that time if you are open with them about what is going on and they see the need. But do make time to see them and be with other so the job of being a caregiver doesn’t overwhelm you. You need them as much or more than they need you during this time.