The essential act of caregiving is to make sure another person’s physical and/or emotional needs are met. But, what happens when one gets so invested into caring for another, that they neglect their own personal needs? Peter Rosenberger has found this to be a reccurring theme amongst caregivers, including himself. He wants caregivers to realize the importance of rediscovering your own identity.
“ We tend to lose our identity in the story of someone else. When a caregiver answers direct questions in third person singular (he, she, etc.) or first person plural (we, our, us), it’s a good indicator the loved one overshadows the caregiver’s identity. When asked about our own hearts, however, we find ourselves caught off guard, and usually struggle to share our feelings.”
Feelings of Guilt
Peter states that guilt is a common feeling amongst caregivers. “How can we talk about our own broken hearts or weariness when our loved ones have such drastic illnesses or challenges? Too many caregivers feel guilty for saying anything construed as complaining or wanting a break. After all, the suffering loved one doesn’t get a break from pain/disease/ disability.” Pain is inevitable in life, and it is important to not compare our experiences to others because everyone requires attention.
“In seemingly no time at all, it becomes difficult for caregivers to speak from their own hearts, pain, anger, frustration, and sadness. This loss of identity is the first step on a downward spiral for a caregiver.”
Having some ‘down time’ to relax is key when it comes to caregiving. Designate time in your schedule for a favorite hobby, or an activity you enjoy. Peter admits that his love for playing piano was set aside when his wife was injured, but eventually he started playing again.
Find a Support System
“Healthy caregivers make better caregivers!” A caregiver is a supporting role. As said caregiver, stability in your own physical and emotional needs is vital, so that you can provide adequate care for another. Peter recommends that caregivers find their own support systems. Friendships, support groups and individual counseling are just a few examples he provides.
“Caregivers can also reclaim healthy identities by cultivating trusted and appropriate relationships. In those relationships, caregivers can safely express feelings and challenges with someone who understands their needs.”
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