Lessons from Caring for the Caregiver (Part 1)

Recognize Your Role

By Nancy Kalina, Certified Martha Beck Life Coach and owner of Safe Space Life Coaching

Have you looked at the definition for caregiver or caretaker recently? If you are like me, you have not.

Researching this article, I decided to look into it. Here is what I found.

Caregiver is defined by The Free Dictionary as:

1. An individual, such as a physician, nurse, or social worker, who assists in the identification, prevention, or treatment of an illness or disability.
2. An individual, such as a parent, foster parent, or head of a household, who attends to the needs of a child or dependent adult.

No wonder no one ever wants to consider themselves a caregiver. These two definitions are awfully limiting. The definitions provided are fragments of the full caregiving picture. I believe we are all caregivers in one form or another.

It appears as if there is an unwritten rule that you are a caregiver only if you live in the house with the child or dependent adult. What about all the folks who are supporting a loved one from another home or even another state? I fit into this category. I don’t take care of my aunt’s daily needs. However, my brother and I have supported her through hospitalizations, anxiety and a move to assisted living. Additionally, the above definitions imply that conditions are chronic and the caregivers’ role is permanent. What about people who take care of loved ones when they are sick or are recovering from surgery? What about teachers? What about parents? What about kids who take care of parents who have had too much to drink? What about friends who support one another over the phone when one of them is having a difficult time with life? These are all caregivers.

It is important to honor ourselves as caregivers. Caregiving is a divine act, especially when it is a person’s choice. By honoring our acts we are recognizing and owning this role, and that is the first step to caring for ourselves when we are in a caregiver role. Caregivers tend to give, give and then give some more. I have coached many folks who are caregivers of one kind or another, and they often state that they feel they have lost their identities, as if caregiving is all that they are. This can happen all too easily. Hence the importance of realizing that we as human beings must nurture and care for ourselves in addition to others. While caregiving is a wonderful thing to do, it can be draining.

When you recognize your current situation for what it is, you become aware that you may have needs or desires that are not being met because you are so busy caring for others. Then you can tell yourself, “I want some time for me to take of myself.” The point here is not to stop caregiving. Not at all. It’s awesome when one human helps another in need. The point is to recognize if your role has changed, even temporarily.

 

Please see Lessons from Caring for the Caregiver (Part 2): Take Care of Yourself