This post is also available in: French
Please join me in welcoming Joan E. Wilder to the blog today! I met her earlier this year through Professionals Health Connection, where she offers realistic fitness solutions. Joan kindly accepted my offer to guest post here and ta-da this is the quality post that came from it! Take it away, Joan:
If you ever been on an airplane, you know the instruction from the flight crew to “put your oxygen mask on first”. This is advice that is of the utmost importance when you are caring for someone. And this doesn’t only pertain to oxygen. It pertains to the caregiver as a person – you must put yourself first.
Why you might ask? Well, if you stop to think about it, it makes sense. If anything happens to the caregiver (mentally or physically), think about what would happen to the child, elderly or disabled person needing the care in the first place. In most cases, it would be devastating.
Caregivers have one of the hardest jobs on the face of the earth, they need to be sure to take care of themselves first, so they can give care without sacrificing their well-being. This is critical and difficult to do. And that is a part of why caregiving is so difficult. Let’s talk about the part of caregiving that takes care of the caregiver, the part no one considers, even the caregiver themselves.
Dealing with Feelings of Frustration and Guilt
Caregiving, especially from a distance, is likely to bring out many emotions, both positive and negative. Feeling frustrated and angry with everyone, from the care recipient to the doctors, is a common experience. Anger could be a sign that you are overwhelmed or that you are trying to do too much.
If you can, give yourself a break: take a walk, talk with your friends, get some sleep – try to do something for yourself. Step away until you can breathe easily.
Although they may not feel as physically exhausted and drained as the primary, hands-on caregiver, long-distance caregivers may still be worried and anxious. Sometimes, long-distance caregivers feel guilty about not being closer, not doing enough, not having enough time with the person, and perhaps even feeling jealous of those who do.
Many long-distance caregivers also find that worrying about being able to afford to take time off from work, being away from family, or the cost of travel increases these frustrations. Remember that you are doing the best you can given the circumstances and that you can only do what you can do. It may help to know that these are feelings shared by many other long-distance caregivers – you are not alone in this. Be aware of the stress it causes and try to alleviate it whenever possible.
Taking Care of Yourself
Caregiving is not easy for anyone – not for the caregiver and not for the care recipient. There are sacrifices and adjustments for everyone. When you don’t live where the care is needed, it may be especially hard to feel that what you are doing is enough and that what you are doing is important. It often is.
Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver.
Make sure you are making time for yourself, eating healthy foods, and being active.
Consider joining a caregiver support group, either in your own community or online. Meeting other caregivers can relieve your sense of isolation and will give you a chance to exchange stories and ideas. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
We hope you found this information useful – please share with those caregivers you know. They make the world a better place.
Wishing you the best of health!
Source: NIH – National Institutes of Health
About Joan E. Wilder
A transplanted NewYawker, Joan E. Wilder lives in Texas just south of Houston. Having been sedentary herself for many years, she writes mainly to inspire sedentary people to be active and healthy. You can visit her website here, read the blog for inspiration, or simply check out some exercises. Reach out to Joan on Facebook and Twitter too.