Care for the Caregiver: Loving Oneself
As of 2020, there are approximately 50 million caregivers in the United States. Almost one-third of caregivers provide at least 20 hours per week of care. In addition, approximately 58% of caregivers are women. Caregivers typically do not receive any formal training and learn as they go. (Supporting Caregivers | CDC)
I never thought of myself as a caregiver. My daughter lost oxygen at birth, is cognitively and speech impaired, and as her mother, I was taking care of her. When she turned 18, I started receiving Adult Services Pay to take care of her in the home. Even then I found it difficult to “get paid” to take care of my own daughter.
As the years have gone by, I have appreciated the extra income to help care for her; although, it was not enough to allow me to be at home to take care of her full-time. The difficulty came when she was done with school. I needed someone to take care of her while I was working. In searching for a caregiver for a disabled adult I found the cost would be $15-$20 per hour.
Add in my drive time and I would have no money left from my paycheck.
I am sure there are many parents, legal guardians, and caregivers that cannot afford to work because they cannot leave their person at home alone. I am a single parent taking care of my daughter. I was in such a terrible position that I knew only God could take care of. “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Psalm 56:3 NIV. As always, God did come through and provided me with a job where I work from home and have a lot of freedom.
We need a lot of freedom when we have another person to care for. We must take them to their appointments and be there for them in the moments they need help, which can be any moment any time of the day. We are 24-hour caregivers. Then we have our own appointments. Looking back, I don’t know how I worked full-time while my daughter grew up. I had help for sure, but I was still the one to take her to her appointments, then I had my own appointments. Missing work was such an issue, but necessary.
The subject of caregiving is so large with so many different topics. Today, I want to speak to all of you about your own care. Whether you are caring for someone young or old, or in between. We are still caring for another human being, which takes away from our own self-care and can take a toll on our health.
“Caregiving is also a public health concern because it can lead to physical, emotional, psychological, and financial strain.” (Supporting Caregivers | CDC).
Being a caregiver can result in depression and anxiety.
At least 1 out of 5 caregivers report fair or poor health. Most of us tend to neglect our own health when we should be making that a priority. We cannot take care of our loved ones when we are not feeling well or are not healthy ourselves.
This is to urge all of you, no matter what age you are as a caregiver, to take care of yourself. We all have different things we enjoy doing. Make time for those things that bring peace to your heart, mind, and soul. Quiet time is one of my best escapes and is the most healing for me. I do my best to spend at least half an hour a day sitting quietly, listening for the voice of God to bring me peace and to guide me on this journey. I also make sure I go to all my doctor’s appointments and routine checkups. Ladies, make sure you get your yearly mammograms.
I know this can be a difficult subject because some of you do not have the means to get even half an hour to spend to yourself. This is to urge you to find someone and ask them to help you. If you absolutely have no one, Community Mental Health offers much help with obtaining the assistance one needs.
Other important things that help us gain strength, so we can be our best selves when caring for another, is to make sure we get plenty of nature, exercise, and laughter.
Seek out help from respite care.
. I cannot urge these things enough. Without all of this, I do not know how I would be coping now that my daughter is 30 years old. My life, since she was born, has been happily dedicated to caring for her, but I also know I need to have a life of my own that fills me up. This is not to say that having a life of my own is not challenging, but I do the best I can. Something is better than nothing.
Sometimes, it is like we are forgotten. It can feel this way because others do not know the true depth of what we are dealing with. We can’t expect others to know, they are not in our shoes. So, we need to reach out to find the help that we need. This is not only for you, but also for your loved one you are caring for.
Do your best to live in the moment, one day at a time. “Spending your days doing what you have control over (your thoughts, words, and deeds) and leaving the rest to God is the only way to peace, calmness, and yes, joy.” (Rosenberger, Peter, Hope for the Caregiver 2014).