Caring for an elderly person can sometimes be demanding to the point of taking us to the breaking point. Those of you who care for seniors at home, or in care facilities know how this feels. It is essential that we take time out to care for ourselves or we too will become sick.
Think of the instructions we receive from flight attendants as a flight prepares for takeoff. As they explain how to use oxygen masks, they instruct mothers with small children to put the masks on themselves before they take care of their small children. After all, what good would the mother be to the child if she were unconscious?
Here are six quick tips to help you deal with senior care and the stress that comes with it:
1) Clearly define your property lines:
Knowing what you are and are not responsible for, and what you can and cannot control is vital. You can’t control another person’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors. You can however learn to control the way you think, feel, and act. Empathy is healthy, but feeling guilty for how someone else feels or expresses their pain is not your responsibility.
Think of your skin as your property line. You have no control over things outside of you. You can assist others but you cannot control how they feel or react to your care (outside of you). You can control how you feel and provide for them (your feelings and behavior is controlled inside of you). And most importantly, you can choose to limit how much you will give before you need to stop and take a break for you own well-being.
Psychologist now know that how we feel is controlled by our thoughts, beliefs, interpretations, and “silent assumptions” about our surroundings. Think about your thinking as you go through your day. Fight to think about thoughts that will help you cope, get you through tough situations, knowing there is rest and reward ahead.
2) Worry vs. Concern:
Worry is constantly thinking about things you can do nothing about; Concern is focusing on those things we can change, and make different. Never ask yourself “why” questions, but focus on “how” and “what.” “How can I make this situation better? What can I do to improve their situation?” Why questions can keep you trapped in a worry cycle forever, and keep your stress at unhealthy levels
3) Get Help when you Can:
Feeling helpless is a very unhealthy emotion. It leads us to want to escape or run away. Admitting weakness on the other hand is a very healthy emotion. When you recognize your weakness you can reach out for help, and stop abusing yourself by trying to change a situation you cannot affect.
4) Depression vs. Sadness:
Sadness is a healthy emotion we feel when experience a loss. When we are sad we recognize the pain of the loss, but deep inside we know “This too shall pass.” Depression is an unhealthy reaction to the same circumstances, and occurs when we feel the loss is permanent, and means our lives are worthless and not worth living. Healthy caregivers recognize that pain and loss are never permanent, but through optimistic outlooks, or their Faith in a benevolent God, recognize that tough circumstances are temporary and all things work together for good.
5) Anger vs. Resentment:
Becoming resentful of your patients or circumstances leads to retaliating in unhealthy ways. When we are resentful we retaliate, strike back, get crabby, or take revenge. Anger on the other hand is a healthy emotion. What’s the difference? Anger addresses the behavior of the other person, confronts it, and takes action to resolve a real violation. Resentment takes things personally, attacks the person and declares them worthless as a human being. Remember to focus on behaviors and not a person’s value. All human beings have infinite worth, although we all make mistakes. Leave it to a higher power to judge a person’s worth.
Also called catastrophizing, awfulizing, or unhealthy anxiety, this is a feeling of doom, or impending disaster. It comes from a non-conscious belief that a very low probability event is going to happen and it will result in dire circumstances. Break down the probability of dire results and learn to look realistically at fear. Only about 1% of the things we worry about actually come to pass.