A Caregiver Apologizes to Alfred Lord Tennyson

caregivers apologies

I know what a caregiver need to do to take care of themselves.  I write about it.  I teach it.  I mean, heck, I built an entire organization based on it.

But here’s the thing.  I am, in addition to being a speaker/founder/psychologist/blogger, a caregiver.  I am the primary support for my 93 year-old mother.   She’s in pretty good shape.  But she has an unsteady gait, falls with some regularity, her memory is starting to fail, and her vision is limited.  All of which means, things happen.

So when I talk with other caregivers about self-care, there is a little bit of “physician, heal thyself” in there.  I am not just telling others what they need to do.  I am also reminding myself of what I need to do, and I know how often I miss the mark.

If you are a caregiver, life gets pretty unpredictable.  So, you may have planned to go to the gym this afternoon, but you wound up at the ER instead.  Or you may have made all the arrangements so you could go out for an evening, but your parent/spouse/child has a health crisis.

First of all, you get credit for having made the plans.  That you have the intention for self-care is important. The fine-tuning is don’t make the plan just for today.  Plan a routine so that, if you have to miss a day or two, all is not lost.  You already have the way to get back on track.

Creating that routine, that space for yourself in amongst all the other demands, requires thought and effort.  Do you need someone else to provide coverage?  Is there a time of day that works best for you?

A woman I knew took care of her husband, who had a neurodegenerative disease, and her daughter, who had Downs’ syndrome.  She would get up incredibly early.  “I love that hour from 4:00 to 5:00 that is just for me. “ Before she had to start the morning routine with her husband, before she had to get her daughter up and out,  she found that hour was her own.

That hour worked for her.   What works for you?  For me, I have to get to the gym by 7:30 or it won’t happen.  I won’t hit the mark every day, but planning it in, I can hit enough days to make it work.

So, whether it’s for the night away to sleep, going to a friend’s for dinner, getting to the gym or to a group meeting, make the plan.  Put it in your schedule.  Know that it won’t always work, but a plan keeps the momentum going.  With apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson, tis better to have planned and missed than never to have planned at all.

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About Elissa Lewin

Elissa Lewin is a Licensed Psychologist and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has maintained a private practice outside of Philadelphia for 25 years. Her own experience as a caregiver led to her founding Nancy’s House, a comprehensive respite program for family caregivers. www.nancy's-house.org

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