Thursday, October 4, 2012

Finding the Energy.

My health lately has not been as good as I would like. I've been transitioning between medications, and I feel like the last few months I've really been put through the ringer. (Not unlike Dad after his last surgery!) It's meant I have more pain and less energy and capacity to deal with my own household tasks, interests and needs, let alone for Dad's, but I'm still doing my best to visit as often as I physically can, and, of course, I still perform all of my clerical and managerial duties for him. I think how much harder things would be for me if I was caring for him physically.

When I talk to caregivers I know, I hear more and more often about new physical challenges they are facing due to the almost overwhelming responsibilities they have. When there is too much to be done, too much stress, too much physical and emotional exertion, the body and mind breaks down, and the caregiver burns out. Too accustomed to putting others' needs before their own, caregivers are far, far too susceptible to high blood pressure, diabetes, the flu and colds, and autoimmune diseases like my own. It's becoming a new epidemic.

I know from personal experience how difficult it is just to take care of your own life when you have a chronic medical problem. I also know how difficult it is to take care of yourself and your own life AND someone else's since I did it fully for two years, and do it in a modified fashion now. I know the kind of choices, or lack thereof, that caregivers feel they have, and the compromises they must make and yet I still say these things over and over to the people I counsel.

You must take care of yourself! Who will take care of your charge if you are unable to do so? Your life matters exactly as much as that of your charge! You must find a way to get exercise, eat better, get some respite, get some counseling so you have someone to talk to, do something you love to do, help yourself! There are ways to do this, resources you can call, moments you can steal, even if it means (safely) shutting your charge in their room for a while. They'll survive! But more importantly, so will you.

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