If we are honest with ourselves, we might admit to being a reluctant caregiver. Of course, there are those among us who thrive on caregiving; they effortlessly do and say all the right things. You know the type, especially if you are not that type. Still, it is not fair to assume reluctant caregivers are lazy, ungrateful, or indifferent. The reluctance could stem from an emotional place of insecurity and worry. The reluctance could be related to deeper family issues running back decades. It could be an expression of fear; afraid of aging and death.
If you are a reluctant caregiver or find yourself leaning into it, the time will come when a parent, spouse, or other family member will need your help. Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t. Look in the mirror and own it – the Reluctant Caregiver. Take some time to try and identify the causes of your reluctance or resistance. But chances are, at some point, you will be recruited to take care of your family. There are support groups for caregivers. Fortunately, there is so much out there to help, and we will dedicate another blog to the resources available to caregivers.
If you are not reluctant, then you are probably the other type of caregiver. Maybe you are a gleeful, cheerful, exuberant caregiver. Maybe you have been ready for this role, preparing for years. Good for you, and good for your parents or grandparents. Not everyone is born with the patience, aptitude, or enthusiasm to learn the skills needed to manage their aging parents’ mental, physical, financial, and legal needs. It can become overwhelming, and fast. Fortunately, there is help for the helpers.
Share the load. Many families have multiple children with specialties or skills. For example, if there is a nurse or doctor in the family, that person can become the medical advocate for the aging parents. Likewise, if you have an accountant in the family, or someone who is good with money, they can take over cash management for the parents. There are usually enough jobs to go around. It is important to spread out the work, whenever possible. We don’t want to overburden any single caregiver. We want to support each other. Create a community of caregiving for your aging relatives.
The community of caregiving will be different for each family. Take the time to research and develop a community for your parents. It will help you with the caregiving role, and it will enrich the lives of your parents or grandparents.
If you are still feeling reluctant, resentful, or anxious about caring for your aging parents, then my advice is to get and stay selfish. Yes – I mean that. Focus on caring for yourself. When you nurture your own health and well-being, you will naturally become a better caregiver. When you are feeling centered and peaceful, you will be generous with your emotions. When you are feeling well rested and getting regular exercise, you will be clear headed in decision making. And when you are staying in the moment, you will realize what a fragile gift life is and how beautiful it is when we care for ourselves and care for each other.