Donna Thompson is a caregiver to her son and an advocate for other caregivers. She knows all too well what caregivers face when it comes to the elusive topic of taking care of themselves. Phrases like “Make time for yourself!” “Plan respite!” and “When it’s all too much, just say no!” are often advised by others. But here’s the reality:
“The fact is, walking away from a child with autism who is in meltdown is not a responsible option. Respite may not be affordable or it may be more bother than it's worth to arrange. Just say no to someone who needs help to feed himself? Not going to happen.”
So Donna has created three tips for helping caregivers create more realistic boundaries that can help them maintain their sanity and their sense of self.
Practice Simultaneous Care
Donna advises that when caregivers do something for their loved one, try doing something for yourself at the same time. Like have a cup of tea together. Or go outside together. Or look through photos together.
"These practices require discipline and the determined decision to find joy individually AND together at home. Placing yourself in the shadow of the person you care for can become a habit. "I'll do something for myself at the end of the day when this is all over" is a terrible mantra, because it doesn't work."
“I can help – in a minute”
Donna reminds caregivers that not every call or request they receive in a day is an emergency. Caregivers often get caught up in answering a request immediately, and this creates an enormous amount of stress. Sometimes acknowledging a request with a message of “Just a minute,” is perfectly acceptable.
“Exercising this prerogative to WAIT when it's sensible to do so give us real options to do something else in meantime.”
Do Something of YOUR Choosing
“Very often in caregiving, we sacrifice our right to choice because we see our own needs as less important than those of our loved one,” writes Donna. She encourages caregivers to break out of this rut and every so often speak up about what YOU want to do. This can be applied to things ranging from which TV program you watch together, to where you and your loved one go on a day out. “Having care needs doesn't equate to the right to choose how we live our lives outside of caring.”
If you’re a caregiver, why not give these boundaries a try. It just might help you reclaim yourself!
Share these tips with other caregivers to show the importance of creating boundaries when it comes to caring for others.