Hope for Caregivers

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Eventually, all of us will end up in a caregiving or care-receiving situation.  Apprehension is understandable.  But how do we balance our own families, careers, and retirement dreams with the demands of caregiving?  How will the emotional toll affect our families and us? Typically families do not address these complex issues until the crisis is upon them--and before you know it such strong feelings as anger, anxiety, and helplessness can overwhelm you.  When you find yourself caregiving a loved one not only you, as the caregiver, become stressed but family members also need more support.

In the early stages of caregiving there are so many decisions to be made.  Often people try to avoid stress and become isolated from their friends.  During caregiving all of us need a network of people to support us.  Caregiving will create many changes in your life and it is very important to take time out for yourself.  Go to the gym, walk, and join a group like Caregivers.com.  The most important thing is to take care of yourself and know when to ask for help.

Caregiving puts us under great strain–and when we are under strain, we are more apt to lose our temper and become irritable. The caregivers I worked with reported having periods of forgetfulness, withdrawal from friends and partners, and had childish patterns of thinking.

We cannot avoid stress or eliminate it altogether, and for that matter some stress is good.  But we can recognize that often our own thoughts are the very thing that leads to stress during caretaking.  After all, if your father is home with help and support and you get a call from him, he may just want to talk to you.  Until you determine what his need is at that particular moment don’t panic.

Though caregiving is a multifaceted challenge, it can also offer profound emotional and psychological rewards.  With the right perspective, caregiving a loved one needs not be confronted with unalloyed dread and anxiety.  The key lies in going beyond these anxieties related to caregiving.  This means that you must start talking to your loved ones before a crisis arises.  Ask them what they want.  Share with them your concerns and then they may share theirs.  These kinds of early discussions are very helpful in the long run.

Every age group develops mutual responsibilities with each other.  Human nature seeks this type of fulfillment, and we as people  change all the time in order to feel satisfaction and fulfillment. When we do not feel this sense of transcendence or satisfaction we feel empty . All of us search for transcendence, the sense of
transcending oneself. At some point in time all of us will face the difficulties of providing care for a family member or spouse.  Caregiving is a social issue.   In caregiving for another who has lived and loved and suffered, there is something that happens so that one extends beyond oneself, which often creates a sense of unity.  This happens regardless if one is caring for a child, one’s parents, or a friend.  Intergenerational care giving will be common in the twenty-first century.  Caregivers may feel burdened by their responsibly for unpaid care work.  However, they will simultaneously feel enriched by their efforts to promote family relationships.

Our children will simply continue to choose those patterns of caretaking that they experience in the family, either where the deep relationship in caretaking brings satisfaction or, when this cannot be attained, a feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction.  Despite what society declares, the job of caring for a loved one who is ailing is daunting.  Often overwhelmed, overworked, and untrained for the job of caregiving, we feel scared.  It is not a storm for some caregivers--it is a hurricane.

Relative to all other intergeneration pairings in care giving the mother and daughter tie, especially for those over 50 years of age, can be the closest.  These mothers and daughters have been balancing lives for a long time.  Both mothers and daughters have ambitions and needs of their own.  People studying mother- and -daughter relationships have shown that in later life both mother and daughter foster their own autonomy.  However many do experience conflict and tension.  So the truth is that this relationship is one of support and struggle.  Care giving highlights these tensions.

*Gloria G. Barsamian is the author of Sustenance and Hope for Caregivers of Elderly Parents; Bread of Angels.  She worked for 28 years at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts. The book is available June 30th through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and others.

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