Question: I worry sometimes I’m turning into the “caregiver from hell,” but what’s the best way to toe the line between tough love and compassion when caring for someone?
Answer: What an important question, as I imagine every caregiver has felt this way at one time or another. I know I certainly have. The fact that you’re asking for assistance means you’re self-aware and so very loving, so give yourself grace, compassion and love.
We sometimes forget caregiving is hard and that stress is inevitable. Therefore, when caregiving becomes really hard and we feel stressed, our first assumption is that we’ve done something wrong—when, in fact, it’s simply part of the journey.
The key is to recognize when the marker has been moved from hard to very stressful and what tools to use to try and return to the baseline of your caregiver relationship. The baseline will look different for different caregivers based on the profile of the person for whom they’re caring.
Before sharing my tools, where are you on your journey of acceptance of your role as a caregiver? Acceptance of our caregiver role is very freeing. While it’s not a one-time event, it does get easier every time a new situation arises that we need to accept.
Accepting my caregiver role allows me to release control more easily over things which I actually have no control over. Accepting my caregiver role helps me feel more empowered and helps me be more present with my daughter.
Here are two tools to use when you find you’re not being the best version of yourself while caring for a loved one:
- Mantras: When you find yourself becoming agitated, repeat quietly in your mind, “It’s not his/her fault.” If you’re able to do this as soon as you feel your blood pressure rise, it gives your mind enough of a distraction to not continue with the rising blood pressure. It allows for a moment of understanding or even compassion before you react. This mantra has worked wonders with me and my daughter. She has a rare genetic disease, so her brain doesn’t receive signals like most. If you’re caring for someone with cognitive decline such as dementia, remind yourself that it’s the disease’s fault.
- Breathing: Take five long deep breaths. Simply taking a moment to be intentional with your breathing so that you move from chest breathing to abdominal breathing does wonders to calm your body and slow your heart rate. And, there’s no need to stop with five if you have the time.
This Question & Answer is also posted at www.seniorsmatter.com at "How do I avoid becoming the 'caregiver from hell'?"