This is what I will do and this is what I will not do. Seems simple enough. But when caring for a family member with whom you’ve shared a complicated relationship, staying within your boundaries is challenging.
I suffer from wanting to “make everything better,” and that’s when I tend to creep over the edge of my boundaries. It’s hard to see a loved one struggle, but if you don’t stay within your limits, you’ll soon be swallowed up by your caregiving role.
Family baggage follows you into the caregiving journey. If you haven’t yet worked out past issues, this leg of your relationship will unlikely present you with the opportunity. Your loved one needs care. If they struggle with any disease that causes dementia, they are not processing daily life in the same manner as before they got sick. You can, however, forgive the past and move into the present. You may not get the response you wish for from your loved one, but you can do your own work and leg go.
When you aren’t putting yourself under pressure to “fix” the relationship, you can more easily set clear boundaries. It’s not about patching up the past; it’s about caring for this person today. Make sure you’re only signing up for what you can do, not what you think you should do. And always, always…give care from a place of love. That may mean taking a moment and a deep breath before you see your loved one.
When you take care of yourself, respect your boundaries and needs, you will give care from a much healthier place. Taking care of yourself requires daily reminders. It’s easy to get sucked in to doing more. Enlist help from your support team. Trust your gut when you’re feeling uneasy about the amount of work you’re doing. And as I say on my radio show: Remember, if you’re a caregiver, ask for help.
When my brother Steve was in town, he sat down with me on “The Unexpected Caregiver Radio Show.” He speaks from his heart. Our journey on my sister’s caregiver team is not an easy one, but there is a lot of love between us. We support each other as we care for my sister and we’re not afraid to say to the other, “Hey, you need to take a break.”
Take care of you so that you can continue caring for your loved one.