If you, like me, are one of the more than 53M non-professional (unpaid) caregivers in the United States, you’re navigating your roles of caregiving support along with other roles in your life, continuously looking for ways to provide the best journey for your care receiver while reducing overwhelm and staying positive yourself.
Reduce Caregiving Overwhelm
One way to provide clarity and reduce overwhelm is to develop goals for your journey and for that of your care receiver. The importance of this is it shifts your focus from just getting through your day to making choices that impact your entire caregiving journey.
In my early caregiving journeys, when I didn’t know what I didn’t know, I was trying to think through how to handle experiences with my logical mind. The diagnosis is not interested in nor does it follow logic! It was overwhelming, consuming, frustrating, and yes – sometimes frightening. In addition, this was before the Internet and during the time when people still did not talk about many diagnoses – sometimes even with family members and definitely not with friends and co-workers.
Use What We’ve Learned in Other Areas of Our Lives
I struggled through my first two caregiving journeys and when I began my third journey (none of these were journeys I chose and yet now I realize they have been incredible blessings in my life), I decided to incorporate what I was using in other areas of my life personally and professionally.
Use in All Roles of Caregiving Support
These goals carry through all the roles we’ll have during our caregiving journey from that of primary caregiver, to caregiving partner, caregiving supporter, self-care, care buddy and care guide.
I created one very simple goal for my care receiver.
Everything I do is based on keeping them safe and happy.
This is my focus when I’m making the decisions and it’s my focus when I’m working with someone else providing support for my care receiver. Each person I work with knows we put every discussion and decision through the lens of how does this keep my care receiver safe and how does it help my care receiver be happy.
Here’s a quick example. When we moved my husband, Jack, into a memory care community, I was still his primary caregiver for much of his care. For the other areas of his care, I was a care partner with the members of the community team. We spoke frequently about his care and how to help him adapt most successfully to his new environment.
I received a call that Jack was resisting shaving in the morning. I explained I had a solution for that. His family went to church every day and, for as long as I have known Jack, he has too. I suggested the care team explain to Jack that he had to shave so he could go to church and to work. It worked perfectly. He no longer resisted shaving and getting ready in the morning.
Part of keeping him safe and happy is also making sure we’re doing everything we can to help him be the best resident and not creating additional work for his care team if there is a solution.
Caregiver and Care Receiver:
Our two goals for us are:
- The diagnosis doesn’t define us. It’s part of our lives.
- The journey does not become our entire life.
Trust me, it’s very easy for our role as caregivers to become the primary focus in our lives and there are times when this is the right thing for us and for our care receiver. What I learned is that it’s easy to go to this place for the right reason and then stay there, not realizing we can still provide excellent support for our care receiver and bring back other roles in our lives.
Having goals is a constant check in for me and helps me not get stuck or lost. It allows the necessary shifting of our focus without losing ourselves.
Just as with my care receiver I created one very simple goal.
I learn to thrive during my caregiving journey.
During my first caregiving journeys I just wanted to survive them, to get though them. I didn’t think about them being part of my life purpose, I didn’t evaluate my beliefs and values to make sure they were aligned with my journey and serving me supporting my care receiver. I didn’t think about whether my natural personality and the way I naturally deal with both stress and growth made a difference in my experience.
Goals Help us Thrive in Our Lives
During my grandmother’s journey I embraced caregiving being something that was coming into my life again and it was time to incorporate all the areas of my life together, rather than keeping them all separated.
We’re meant to thrive in our lives.
I realized I wanted to thrive, not just survive as a caregiver. I’d brought parts of my professional life into my caregiving with great success and I realized bringing what I’d been learning in my roles of caregiving support into the other roles in my life would help me become better in all areas of my life.
In this video, I share additional information about this and two other strategies to reduce overwhelm and increase clarity in our caregiving journeys.
- Breaking down roles and responsibilities of caregiving support so we know what we’re qualified to do and where we benefit from support
- Massive acceptance and radical presence so we stay fully present in the moment and maximize the potential and possibilities of each experience.
The content in this post is part of the program The Caregiver’s Journey – guiding you through the five overlapping phases of your caregiving journey from what we wish we’d known before becoming – and in the early days of becoming – a caregiver, through our caregiving journey, to moving forward in our lives after grieving the loss of our loved one.