Are you one of the 65 million Americans providing care for loved ones needing help due to illness, disabilities, or aging? If so, you no doubt experience a vast array of emotions. You’re busy, untrained, and just plain exhausted—and perhaps managing a boatload of grief in the process.
Dr. Steve Landers offers simple but important tips for managing four common stressors in family caregiving in his article Family Caregiving Isn’t Easy: Emotional Management Tips.
I currently manage care for three people: my 94-year old mother who lives four hours away, my sister who has acute needs requiring me to be with her during hospitalizations (also four hours away), and my husband who has Parkinson’s Disease. The demands and thus the emotions regarding each vary with who they are, what their needs are, and my relationship to them. Personally, I’m great with the medical aspects of their care. I understand and can often diagnose what’s going on even before their physicians do. But I get frustrated when they behave like helpless victims. When they don’t do the things they know to do to take care of themselves. When they complain about things that neither they nor I can change, and let those complaints taint their whole day.
My tip for managing the whiny victim? Become a Pollyanna. When I’m handed a negative – a complaint, a criticism, or an accusation, I come back with a positive. A reason why I believe the sky isn’t falling. A suggestion for making lemonade out of some pretty sour lemons. An action they can take to make things better. I resist doing anything I know they can do for themselves, even while constantly reassessing to make sure they can still do it.
What is your biggest challenge in caregiving, and what do you do about it?