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Caregiver Guilt and Finding Balance
By Sheryl Leary

(Page 1 of 2)

How do you find the balance? Is there a balance? Am I doing the right thing? Should I be doing more? These are important questions for a caregiver. They can dominate a caregiver’s daily thoughts. The experts all talk about balance. How do we find the balance when we are so busy doing the things that upset the balance?

Here is the key: there is no magic answer. You may be searching for an answer that is elusive and forever changing. Our ability to handle all that comes our way changes over time just as the needs of others around us change over time.

Sometimes, just when we think we have a handle on life, something changes and we have to start from scratch.

Let me define my view of balance. I believe we achieve balance when we meet our own needs as well as the needs of those who depend on us. What are our needs? Needs can be physical (our general health), emotional (happiness, joy, love), and material (housing, clothing). Some may want to add spiritual needs as paramount in their lives as well.

Are caregivers meeting their own needs? Caregivers often neglect their yearly check-ups although they would never skip one for their loved ones. Caregivers often put aside their own emotions as they devote their energy to their loved one. Caregivers put off buying themselves new clothes, or items needed because it is so hard to get to a store by yourself and for yourself. When attention is paid to caregiver needs, the caregiver often thinks “Am I doing enough for my loved one?” and this starts the guilt process.

How do we create a system to ensure that caregivers and their loved ones both have their needs met? I suggest keeping an accounting of sorts so that care you provide for another can be matched with care you provide for yourself. You can start with a journal and divide each page in half. Put your loved one’s name on one side and your name on the other. Did you help your loved one in the shower? You can list that on the side under your loved one’s name. Did you take the time to take a shower yourself today? If yes, then list it on the side with your name. If you enjoyed a nice lunch with your mother today, you can list it on both sides. If you prepared her lunch but never sat down yourself to eat, then your side will run a deficit.

The activities you are writing down do not have to match perfectly. For example, you may have played cards with your father for his enjoyment. However, if this is not relaxing or enjoyable to you personally, you cannot put in on your side of the page. In this case, you need to find a source of relaxation that you can put on your side. For example, maybe you read for 30 minutes before going to bed. This may be your source of relaxation.

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