I recently read "The Wisdom of Menopause" by Christiane Northup M.D. and I found a very interesting section which relates to caregiving. She speaks from the female perspective of caregiving but men caregivers may benefit from these suggestions, too.
Northup discusses the importance of caring for ourselves and caring for others and finding balance. She speaks of the continuity of care which is a prominent feminine value, yet which women's lives are sometimes unnecessarily sacrificed to this virtue. Many women in their middle aged years are referred to as the "sandwich" generation because they are caring for dependent children and called upon to take care of elderly parents or relatives. Now add a full time job and running a home and family to that. This often contributes to health problems, such as increased blood pressure, cholesterol, anxiety attacks, heart palpitations, severe hot flashes and insomnia. In fact, research has documented that people who care for parents with chronic disease have more medical conditions requiring treatments than those who don't have this responsibility. The following steps are designed to help you consciously care for yourself while caring for others if and when that need arrives.
Step two: Learn the difference between care and over care. True care of others, from a place of unconditional love, enhances our health. Over care is often motivated by guilt and unfinished business for which we hope to compensate through caregiving. Over care and burnout destroy health. Examine if you are martyring yourself and know you cannot be available to another unless your needs are met, too.
Step three: Learn benefits of benign self-interest. Our health is best served by participating in activities in our own highest and best interests.
Step four: Understand caring for parents or aging relatives can be an attempt to heal unfinished business.
Step five: Learn to delegate and ask for help. Learn to have healthy boundaries, set limits and demand that other family members assume some of the burden or help pay for your help.
Step six: Plan ahead and discuss a potential caregiving plan with parent or relative with your siblings.
Suzanne Holguin, RN, BSN, is assessment nurse and caregiver support group facilitator at the Friendship Centers of Emmet County. Send questions and comments to Caregiving Column, Attn. Suzanne Holguin RN, BSN, c/o Friendship Centers of Emmet County, 1322 Anderson Road, Petoskey, Mich. 49770; firstname.lastname@example.org; or (231) 347-3211, ext. 15. The Caregiving column runs on the third Monday of every month.