Strength & Courage Start With Knowing What You Don’t
- Know You Need Help…
Knowing that confession is good for soul, is strangely similar to knowing and confessing that you don’t always know what to do in life sometimes. Life does not come with road signs, if you will. If I could get care-givers to really listen, this is probably one of the most important things to know as a caregiver. It is okay to not know everything (or anything!). Due to that fact, I applaud caregivers who call for consults as way of thanking them for reaching out to someone who does know more! Realizing that we need help sometimes is the very first step in getting it! In her book about care-giving, Cindy Laverty states that while “caring for our aging is commonplace in all social circles… Few of us know what to do…” That’s why one of the first things I advise care-givers to do is find and attend a local CARE-GIVING SUPPORT GROUP! Because attending a local caregiver support group is essential if you are caring for an aging loved one for the long or short haul. Either way, what may seem at first to be a small investment of time and/or money, usually ends up being a bit more, and in many cases, a whole lot more than a simple investment. Even if you are simply concerned for an aging person that you may know in regards to their health, welfare or safety, attending a local a caregiver support group offers insights to the reality of care-giving in the current senior care market. That’s why I invest my own time in volunteering to facilitate such a group. I want care-givers to know what they don’t! It’s not like we are handed a set of instructions when all of the sudden we are caring for someone else. When you don’t where to start, start your care-giving journey with others and know this… You are NOT alone! In addition to the support of other care-givers like yourself, facilitators like myself, are always on hand to provide important and relevant needed resources. Empowering caregivers is so important to me that I will always advise being a regular part of a dementia or impaired aging type of caregiver support group network- it’s power-full! Then, start finding others in your church or community who are or who have been caregivers.
2. Know You Must Set Boundaries
A very real issue for all care-givers is that there is a lot to know. That’s why so many caregivers do not “know what to do…” Knowledge is power. I am in the day to day business operation of empowering caregivers, because they feel so overwhelmed and tired. Fatigued, really. Let’s be honest. How many caregivers actually signed up from the get-go to sacrifice both time and money to help care for another human being? The cost for caring for an aging loved one goes beyond time and money. So many caregivers I help are experiencing health issues brought on by not being able to care for themselves. I know. As a nurse, I had to learn how to take time when off from work, for self-care. If you are asking here about what self-care refers to, that, in and of itself may indicate that you need a little “R&R” yourself! So, let’s just suffice to say that the issue of knowing boundaries, will be second on our care-giver discovery journey today! Yes. Boundaries. I know a caregiver who calls boundaries the “Delta Principle,” named after the rule on all Delta flights that guides parents to administer oxygen masks to themselves first before applying it to their children on board. As a caregiver, one must first be able to distinguish what side of the bedside rail they are on. Please allow me to explain this…
When I was in nursing school, we did hospital work referred to as “clinical rounds.” I had an instructor who seemed to be tough with me about the issue of “sympathy versus empathy.” For the record, sympathy is feeling sorry for others while empathy goes further to possible act upon the sympathetic feelings of mercy for others… Empathy is actually what actors must do, in that they must convince the audience that they are experiencing the sadness in a character portrayal. Empathy is what happens as we age and recognize more of what our parents went through. At least that’s the human psychology of it. At twenty years of age, it seemed only natural that I be more empathetic in response to the pain and hurting of others, but my instructor advised that while it is a good thing to be able to have enough insight as I did about human suffering, nurses should remain mostly sympathetic while in a hospital setting since there is not enough empathy for every patient and it is most logical to remain sympathetic- having sorrowful feelings without trying to imagine or experience what patients are going through. Using the side-rail on a particular unoccupied hospital bed, as a visual or object lesson, she pointed out that the patient is on one side and the nurse is on the other. To be able to pass her clinical rotation that semester I needed to know what side of the rail I stood on. Good to ponder, still, for sure. Her point being, focus on the care first to be staunch.
3. Know How to Create Your Own Margin of Error
We are always thinking about others. Most caregivers in families do. Every family usually has a natural born caregiver. Not all, but most. Once the family caregiver realizes his/her mission they get going on the care-giving mission, leaving themselves behind. While this strategy for much needed strength and courage may seem a lot like setting boundaries, it’s different in that, with setting margins for self-care, caregivers actually allow for mistakes. Think of it this way. Or imagine your life as a clean page, if you will:
We need to set boundaries between those we love and ourselves on the inside of our life’s page; and we need to set margins on the outside of ourselves connecting us to the outside world- with all of it’s demands. Then we should find our selves somewhere in the middle, where we can find solace-comfort- you know, the Spiritual stuff. Oh yeah! The larger the margin for error, or fluff in the middle, the more chance we have as caregivers to actually muddle though it all a little better! It’s like finding your “happy place” in your head- but you learn to stay the course or balance between you- those you love (and care for) and the world. Another way of stating this strategy is by calling it what it is, in a way, and that is, put simply, to SLOW DOWN…. We cannot take care of ourselves the way we used to when we are a caregiver, and by the same token, if we do not slow down, that infamous red brick wall will find ourselves crashed into it- fastly! Sounds great. Fluff in the middle. But how do we get there? So glad you asked. We need others. In my world this fluff referred to as “respite” usually always involves others stepping up to let us find that middle ground. I’m also not talking about the respite care offered for a week in Medicare’s terms. I’m talking about you personally SCHEDULING for it. Don’t let me loose you here. Scheduling is not always boring. Scheduling time for you is essential. I remember a preacher once who asked the church if they ever had questions related to their commitment of faith, they would only need to assess where their time and money went, since both are from above, right? He recommended that each person carefully examine their planners and checkbooks if they kept track of their time and money- to see where the time and provisions actually were spent. I love this. Still do. Okay, I’m a tracker. But we have to be money and time trackers to be better givers of care or else others are always willing to direct you, and this is where caregivers tend to “loose themselves.” Don’t mean to get off the topic here, but can you see how it will be tough to assess where time goes, or how to schedule it if you don’t plan ahead- yourself. And that brings us to the next-to-last strategy for strength and courage- planning. Like you mean it!
4. Know How to Plan
As a caregiver you will probably schedule medical appointments if you do not have a care manager to do that for you. You will probably schedule some respite for yourself, as well as meals, activities, and other facets of activities of daily living for your loved one you are caring for. And, as well for yourself. Planning ahead is the best way to go about managing your time well. Need I say more? I’ll add “Care Planning” to a future blog, how’s that?
5. Know When to Go
When and when not to, that’s the question. Like, right now, due to all of the above, it’s time for me to wrap this up. Remember, life is about balance.
- I have to go help someone else right now!
- I have created boundaries for how long blogs should be-
- I have a personal margin of time for self during lunch each day-
- I schedule plans in advance for each day; and it’s time to go
- I know when it’s time to go and do, or not
See ya next blog, it’ll dawn on ya, life’s a journey, be strong & courageous!!!