Caretakers; Are You Caring For Self?
By Shelby Molchan, CCHT
If you are a caretaker, or even helping to care for someone who is ill, the focus of this article is YOU! As you know caring for a sick person can become a full time job. Most people who become caretakers, do so almost by default, for example husbands and wives who care for their spouse who becomes ill. “For better or worse, in sickness and in health.” Or children, who agree to care for an ill or aging parent. Most who find themselves in the caretaker position really had no idea how encompassing the job would become when they assumed that role.
Most often, when you become a caretaker this is your first experience at caretaking on this level, you are neither prepared or experienced at the job that you are undertaking. As a result, you become overwhelmed and exhausted by the caretaking duties, not only because of the demands of the role you have assumed, but also because your own personal life cannot be put on hold so you try to encorporate both.
I have witnessed the caretakers of my degenerative disease patients decline in their own personal worlds because of the heavy responsibility and emotional strains of caretaking. I know you want to care for your loved one!
There is no doubt you are doing your best! Unfortunately you are not superman or superwoman. You and your body have limits! When you continually push to go beyond your limits you enter into a state of exhaustion. As you continue to push your own health and mental state will suffer. It is a cold hard fact,that if you become sick or depressed you will not be able to care for your loved one effectively. I know that is not your goal. All caretakers I have worked with desire to give the best care possible. So how do you do that and still maintain balance in your own health and life?
Number one most important thing you can do is delegate. Others want to help! People LOVE to help! Helping gives us a feeling of accomplishment and being needed. It boosts our mental state to one of loving gratification. Giving from a place of exhaustion fosters feelings of lack and even resentment. Lisa Nichols said, “Never serve from your cup. Only serve from your saucer. If your cup is not running over, you have nothing to give.” That is the truth! Someone you know has something to give. Let them give it.
It is easy to come to believe nobody can care for the patient like you can. And that is true to a point. You have your own special way of giving and caring for the patient. But others have their own special ways of giving and caring too. Just because something is done differently doesn’t mean it’s not effective. In fact a break from routing is just as refreshing to the patient as it is for you to have the break.
Start small, baby steps are always the way to make good change. If you don’t feel confident leaving the house with someone else in charge, accept help with household chores and accept it gracefully. It really doesn’t matter how the towels are folded, the point is that they are clean!
Begin to look at the ways you have turned down potential help. For instance if someone offers to do the shopping, gratefully hand over the grocery list, and don’t be afraid to give kind instruction. People want to get it right. Especially for someone who is ill and has certain dietary needs. Giving detailed instruction empowers the helper to do the job correctly and when they do, it instills trust. You will then be able to accept their help again without so much worry that “it won’t be done right”.
Saying no to simple help keeps you in a state of lack and exhaustion. When you are in that state it is very difficult to loosen the reins of control, but the more you allow help in, the more it will flow to you and the better you will begin to feel about accepting help.
Now, what about YOU? What do you do while the patient is asleep and the helper is doing the shopping? Do you push to clean the house, pay the bills or do other necessary chores? There’s a famous piece of advice that is given to new mothers…when the baby sleeps, you sleep. Ok, you don’t have to sleep, although it might be a good idea if you feel the need. Pampering is a caretaker’s best friend! If you are able to leave the house for a couple of hours, body work or spa services are the most healing thing you can do for self. Massage loosens stiff and overworked muscles, moves lymphatic fluid, which stores toxins and allows mind, body and spirit to ‘come down’ a few notches. Things like facials and pedicures, especially when these services come with reflexology or trigger point therapies, revitalize and make you look better.
As a colon hydrotherapist, I recommend colonics not only for the patient but for the caregivers. Since our cells rely on water to conduct energy, take in nutrition and release waste, a colon hydrotherapy session is very revitalizing. Also, since emotional chi runs through the liver, using coffee in the colonic helps relieve emotional burdens that accumulate through the process of caregiving. And unfortunately, since a lot of the time caregivers do not eat or hydrate themselves properly, or have good bowel patterns (since the bowel is an emotional organ/muscle of the body), removing accumulated matter from the bowel can increase energy and stamina and re-establish good flora in the gut, which improves mental and physical function of the mind and body. Many caretakers have come into my office looking ragged while the patient is impeccable. That tells me that they are giving the patient the best care possible while neglecting themselves. There must always be balance, even between a patient and a caregiver.
Practices like yoga and meditation can even be done in the home, which is very valuable as a daily practice of having ‘away time’ from caregiving, but it is liberating to actually leave the house to attend a class. Mingling and associating with others lets you change gears and put your thoughts into different directions for a while. And there is no guilt in doing this. It does not mean that you have neglected your patient in any way. It means you love and care for your patient enough to love and care for yourself, so that you can be the best you can be for them!
The time and money invested in self at this point in your life can save you, literally. Caretakers of those with prolonged illness suffer after the recovery or passing of the patient. It is a sad but true story that many caretakers never recover even when the patient does. The person who is sick is fighting their OWN battle, it is NOT YOURS! Your job is to care and comfort as much as possible, without letting it take you down too. I’m absolutely positive if you asked any patient if they want their caretaker to suffer their fate they would adamantly say NO!
It takes a brave soul to take on the all encompassing job of caregiving, it takes an even braver soul to admit that they need time for self. Even a daily walk is beneficial. I encourage you to begin to think about what you can do to take yourself out of the caregiving role for just one hour a day to reconnect with who you are, (who you were before you were a caregiver), and take action to make that reconnection. Take action to provide yourself with pleasure and laughter as often as possible. Allow others to help in any way they are offering. And most importantly, take time each day to sit quietly, breathe deeply, focus on self and give thanks for all the positive things in life.
Listen to my interview on the Change Book Radio Show!
Visit iTunes Store: Go to Podcasts: Search Change Book Radio Show
Episode title: "Making the commitment to change that will save your life".
Air Date: April 6, 2016
Digestive Health Consultant ~ Lifestyle Change Facilitator
Certified Colon Hydrotherapist ~ Holistic Author ~ Speaker
Shelby Molchan CCHT