Self care for caregivers

Feb 17, 2021

This article is for people who are caring for someone, worrying about someone who cant or wont care for them self.

Recall when you are receiving the safety message on an aircraft prior to takeoff when you are told to fit your own oxygen mask before helping others ?

This is a situation where the risk of helping someone else before yourself could put you both at risk.

In your current situation with the person you are worried about are you feeling frustration, anger, fear, guilt or sadness ?

You may be in a situation where the person you are caring for is not ready for changes and unwilling to make changes ?

Julias daughter Kathy, 19,  is increasingly staying inside inside her room, her mood is low and Julia suspects Kathy is living with depression. Julia is feeling angry, scared, sad and guilty. She has tried to change the situation in many ways, Kathy sleeps during the day, is awake all night and is increasingly irritable. Julia is becoming exhausted. As she has focused more and more on Kathy she has noticed her own life is beginning to go off the rails.  Julia is bailing out Kathy's finances but Julia knows that Kathy is smoking weed every day. Julia is cancelling things on her own social network, outings, treats,  to "be there" for Kathy.

Kathy is pre contemplative about making changes. Julia feels powerless over making Kathy's situation better. She's beginning to feel powerless in general as her own eating, sleeping and exercise becomes more random.

Julia shared with her counsellor her situation and came to the realisation that although she could not make Kathy change, she could change herself. In changing herself she would be more resilient, healthier, more rested and more socially connected and because of this she could be a more useful and resourceful presence in Kathy's life.

Julia explored in counselling "wise giving" as opposed to rescuing / enabling. Julia can now say "no", firmly, at the right time and mean it as well as when to say happily say "yes". She also makes time every day to sit with Kathy and just listen without giving advice, blaming or controlling. Kathy feels accepted and supported. Recently Kathy said an "I could" for the first time. She was beginning to believe change was possible.  

When "change talk" is heard, this can be the time to support with looking at resources, options and possibilities and to recount all past successes.

Kathy is experiencing and observing her mothers great self care strategy. Julia's new clear boundaries are a great example for Kathy. Kathys lifestyle is no longer nocturnal and she is doing her fair share of the housework and is no longer asking for money.  Kathy is now seeing a counsellor as well.

If someone you care about has mental illness, a chronic health condition, an addiction, a disability or does not want to take responsibility for their life, a good place to start is to explore all options with your counsellor in finding support, exploring options and planning strategies.

There is a way through and it starts with self care. Your selfishness supports your loved ones.

Time out or respite .. (counsellor can help you find and the courage to ask for support in this area)

Know your limits, delegate.

Yoga, Meditation, Tai chi, Dance, Walking,

Eat well, sleep well

Maintain Good social connections

Indulging yourself

Laughing, Fun.

The Serenity Prayer

To accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.

Martin Fraser, B.A. (Hons) Psyc. Dip Counselling.

Particular interest in enhancing resilience in my community against Depression, Anxiety, Isolation and Addictions. Member of NZ Assoc Counsellors.

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