Caregivers come to be in many ages, life stages, and professions; there are those of us who chose this direction as our life passion – teachers, counselors, nurses, doctors, fire fighters, EMTS, police officers, clergy. Then there are those who find themselves thrust into the role of caregiver through life circumstance, via aging parents, illness in the family, or a myriad of other situations; and all of these individuals – professional or novice – may be (and often are) slammed with multiple disasters at once!
[It may be appropriate to mention at this point that this is not a purely philosophical discussion … but a response to some fairly heart wrenching testimonies shared by friends in the professional caregiver category…this is an attempt to honor and respond to their struggle.]
There are critical survival strategies that we must observe, or we cease to be effective to those we are trying to help, and may become a detriment (if not a statistic…) to ourselves. And so, I offer this list that came to me, with apologies and THANKS to whomever originally wrote it – it will have to be Anonymous for now. It is posted in my office, and I share it with my clients as appropriate…
“Five Tough Lessons Caregivers Must Learn
to be Empowered and Healthy”
Lesson 1: You can’t save everyone.
Lesson 2: Sometimes you can’t save the one you want to, either.
Lesson 3: If a situation is awful, you must get out – even if others won’t
Lesson 4: Putting up healthy boundaries will make people angry; do it anyway.
Lesson 5: Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it is essential!
I shared these with my sister who is, among other things, a hospital volunteer, and she observed that they sounded a lot like the life-mantra I’d adopted (and use!) many years ago – borrowed from the airlines: “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then assist the person next to you.”
‘First’… a concept that caregivers struggle with; and, for all the reasons that may call us into that role: You can’t give a thirsty child a drink from an empty cup…you can’t provide warmth to a freezing person with a threadbare rag…and you can’t give what you do not have to give. We must tag out now and then, to replenish ourselves, to remind ourselves why, and for whom, we do what we do.
Don’t go it alone! We are always stronger in community, and this goes double for caregivers! We need each other for encouragement, for information about resources, and to know our efforts are appreciated. Reach out to each other!
For those dealing with family issues: Ask for help from family and friends, even if you think the answer will be no…they just might surprise you! Call the church office, or the school office, or your company’s EAP, or even your insurance carrier/Medicare provider…there may be resources available that you didn’t know about.
… And if you are finding yourself on ‘overwhelm’… and you need a safe space, I can help! Call me for a phone consultation, and let’s get things back under control.