When our children were very small, my husband and I moved to a town where we didn’t know anyone.
I worked full time. My husband’s job took him abroad for three straight weeks every month. For the first year, my whole salary was spent on childcare: nursery school, part-time nanny, baby sitters. Through the nursery school, I also met other hardworking parents; we would help each other, taking turns picking up the children, coming through for each other at the last minute, minor emergencies.
I knew it was worth it – I loved my job. I was certain that I would advance, and that very soon it would be financially worth-while – that the investment would prove profitable.And this is exactly what happened.
However, the true profit – the real benefit – was not financial. It was social.
My husband and I built a “family: a strong resilient network of friends, the parent’s of our children’s friend, schoolmates, neighbors, and our colleagues.All of our children are now grown. This “family” has lasted for more than 20 years. Looking back, I am so grateful. What a blessing it was to have had that support network, people I could turn to and ask for help. It was my safety net that kept me from being overwhelmed.
Why do I, the caregiver, need a Safety Net?
Very often, as caregivers, we do not think of asking for help. However, going it alone can put you at risk of ‘caregiver overwhelm’, at risk of “crashing” physically or emotionally.
I believe that in order to receive effective help and support, a caregiver needs to have:
1. Acknowledgement that the problem cannot be solved alone;
2. Willingness to release control to another person in a specific aspect of one’s life;
3. Willingness to open up to another person;
4. Willingness to change.
More often than not, acknowledging that a problem cannot be solved happens after a “crash”. This causes feelings of shame and embarrassment, and makes us feel incapable.
If you reach this point, it is absolutely vital that you reach out. Waiting just makes it harder and more overwhelming. If you can, reach out before this happens.
There is no shame in struggling to carry a load that is too heavy – and no shame in falling.
Giving up control
We know, logically, that we can’t control everything. We can’t control the course of an illness – we certainly can’t control the course of someone else’s illness. We CAN control the way we respond to specific situations, or specific aspects of our loved one’s care. By releasing control over some aspects, we can reduce overload, take better control, avoid crashing, and provide better care for ourselves and for our loved one.
In order to release control, we need to know in what, how, and to whom. This is a great time to ask family and friends what they are willing to do.
Am I “Stuck”? What do I do now?
Being “stuck” means that you can’t move – you can’t take effective action. It happens when you can cot connect to your resources. This results in a feeling of powerlessness, a state that leads to ‘caregiver overwhelm’.
If you feel this way, the time has come to consult a professional. Professionals can help you look at situations from different perspectives and to reconnect to your resources. They can expand your support circle, help you think of new solutions, free emotional “baggage”, set priorities, and see new possibilities.
As one who has lived the life of a caregiver, and knows just how terribly hard it can be, I invite you to consult me. Contact me to see how I can support you.
Tamar Meisel – Professional Medical Coach – http://www.tamarmeisel.com/contact/