Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday Tipday: How To Care For Others Without Losing Your Mind

My mom cared for my grandmother for 10 years of her life. For the last eight of those years, they lived together.

The most important thing for P.T. was my grandmother. While that's completely understandable and commendable, it meant mom did things like go a whole day without eating, forgetting to take her blood pressure pills and skipping her own doctor's appointments.

In short, P.T. lost her mind.

If there's one thing I've learned in the six weeks I had to help HUBS while he was on medical leave, it's that the person you love may be sick, but if you devote all your time to them you'll lose yourself, neglect yourself and get bitter.

Here are my tips for staying sane when caring for loved ones.

How To Care For Others Without Losing Your Mind

1) Calm down. It's hard to be in pain. But I know that it's also incredibly difficult to watch someone else experience pain (especially if you love them and can't do anything to help them). Try to find constructive ways to release that anxiety. Scream into a pillow, punch a stuffed animal. Watch a reality show filled with stupid people (That's 99% of reality shows! You won't have trouble finding one!) and yell at the screen. Yessss...Better.

2) You matter, too. Get regular checkups. Take your medicine. Bathe, for God's sake. But! Don't just do the things you have to. If life is chock-a-block with responsibilities but no fun, you'll get miserable pretty damn fast. Find time to read your favorite magazines, work on your illustrations or have coffee with a friend. You'll be a better care-taker if you remember that your body and mind need nurturing too.

3) Don't fear boundaries. In order to get all this "me" time in between medication schedules, procedures and appointments, you might need to tell your patient that there are certain times of the day and/or week when you'll be doing your own thing. If taking a three hour bath while you drink wine and watch porn is the only thing that'll relax you, step up and let them know you need that time. You porn addicted winos, you.

4) Separate is not equal. If you're dealing with someone whose mental or physical functioning has dropped dramatically, it can be hard to separate them from their illness. Thereby making it easier to get mad when they do/say bone-headed things. Remember - they are not the illness. Now, if they constantly treat you like crap, that will need to be discussed. But, a bit of poor attitude is to be expected when a long-term debilitating condition sets in. Get mad at the condition and find a way to lighten the mood for both of you.

Are these steps easy? Not at all. Plus, it'll take some self-control not to fall back into a them-them-them mindset. But, as doing yoga and going to bed early have taught me as of late, you'll be glad you made the effort.

Have you ever cared for a sick family member or friend for a long period of time? Hit the comments and let us know how you coped.


Susan Cooper said...

Boy, do I get this. I have been there and it takes allot to step back and not let it consume you. Great suggestions and so agree to remember they are NOT the illness. :-)

Anonymous said...

This may sound absurd but I would have rather lost my mind taking care of my dad, than for him to just go without any warning. I miss him greatly, but I get your point. Thanks for the tips!

Citygirl said...

Susan: Thanks! It's so hard to get a grip on that point.

Tope: I hear you, girl. It's at least good to be around your loved-one when they're having health problems. Especially if they might not be getting better.


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