Caring for another person is the single most satisfying, demanding, frustrating, and exhausting thing you can ever do. Whether it is a small child, a teenager, a person that is physically or emotionally challenged, or an elderly parent or relative, caring for the needs of another can tax your strength to point of collapse. How can a person learn to do this and still maintain their own well-being?

It’s the guilt that gets you. You can live with the demands on your time, but the guilt of never being enough becomes compounded when you add the fact this is person birthed you or cared for you for most of your early life. Or this is your (sometimes) beloved spouse or best friend that has shared the highlights of your lives together for many years. And now this person is in need of caring themselves. So, you have the responsibility of caring for either your children or grandchildren, and trying to give some quality time to your parent or spouse. Even if the majority of care giving is done by others, it still stays. The feeling you can’t be there enough or reassure enough. If your children have moved away, you thought that you were done with the “responsibility cloud” over your head was gone, only to have it reappear. You know that given the loss of this parent, spouse or friend, you will feel grief. You believe that the more you do, hopefully the less you will feel guilty. News flash, no matter what you do, you will still feel the sense you are falling short.    Here are some strategies that can help with this process:

7 Easy Steps for Becoming a Better Caregiver

  1. Ask for Help
    Never, ever, think that the sole responsibility should be yours alone. There are other people, community groups, and professional caregivers that can give you support. This can be meals, walking your pet, taking your children for an event, or simple sitting with the person you care for as you get your needed break. Do not be too proud or too controlling to allow this support.
  2. Get Physical Exercise.
    This needs to be scheduled, just like medicine. Every day, exercise for 30 minutes. If possible, get outside and walk somewhere green. It’s cheap and gets your mind to relax. Brains slow down and breath becomes more regular with outdoor exercise. If the weather doesn’t permit it, then walk or exercise in a gym, the Y, or even a covered mall. You need to make sure that you don’t stay in the house where you are doing the care giving. It has to be a different location to give your mind the full benefits of the exercise.
  3. Get Counseling or go to Support Group
    It is important that you can safely vent your feelings with others who share your situations and know that what you say will remain confidential. This is where someone can help you with the guilt feelings. Friends and family are not always able to do this which can cause resentment and make the situation more difficult for everyone.
  4. Have a Support faith Community
    Whatever your beliefs, it is important to have a sense that something is bigger than your problems. To share this in a community of people who believe some of what you do is critical for the difficult times you face.
  5. Get Enough Sleep
    Nothing, not laundry, making that last call, watching the latest television episode is important enough to jeopardize your health. If you have trouble sleeping, see 1 & 2.
  6. Schedule Fun Times
    Just like exercise and medicine, to really achieve this must be scheduled. Once a week, go with friends or family to see a movie, sporting event, or concert. Making the brain focus on something different is critical for brain health.
  7. Love Yourself
    Just the fact that you are reading this, suggests that you are a caring person that is doing the best job you can. Know that no person can ever love you like you have to love yourself.

All care giving has an end goal. That goal is to be unemployed. Prepare for that by focusing on strengthening yourself so you can let go; as a parent, a spouse, or friend. The person you care for will move on and you must be ready to prepare for their departure. That may be a celebration for a child, or the returned health of a partner or friend. It may also be a sad departure if this includes a loss. All of this will be helped by the degree of care you have given yourself in the time before. If you have prepared well you can move on to a new place with the sense of completion and acceptance for a job done well.

The following two tabs change content below.
Gina Crozier, the director of Sonoma Family Counseling has been working with families and children for over thirty years. Her style of counseling is positive, solution-focused with the idea that within everyone there is the ability to solve their problems.