Most caregivers have heard that taking care of themselves should be a top priority. After all, you can’t be much help to someone else if you are sick or too tired. But when you have to do so much for someone else, how can you find the time for yourself? Setting limits is often hard. But it is very important for you and for your loved one.
Here are some practical hints to help you do what must be done without getting overwhelmed:
Make a chart of all of your loved one’s needs. Include how often those requirements must be met, and your ability to take care of them. Make another chart that outlines your obligations, such as work schedule, family commitments, or worship time. This is only a start, but it will give you a handle on what you will and will not be able to do. If your mom has a doctor’s appointment on a day you can’t take off of work, someone else will have to take her.
You can’t do it all by yourself. Period. Enlist siblings, friends, neighbors, and professionals. And once they commit, make sure they follow through. Keep in mind that people don’t always need to be close to help. Your brother who lives in another state might be the best choice to sort out insurance or pay bills, for example. The earlier you put this support network into place, the better, but it’s never too late to ask for help. Remember, you are only one person and there are only so many hours in a day.
Caregiving will change. Medical and personal emergencies may occur. You may get hurt, or your loved one’s health may decline. When situations and circumstances change, be flexible yet firm about finding solutions to meet evolving needs.
Bottom line? Recognizing your own limits does not mean you’re abandoning your loved one. And saying “no” does not mean “I don’t love you.” The healthier and happier you are, the better you can care for others.