When so much of your day to day life involves caring for another human being who is heavily dependent on you, all that attention and emotional labor can take a toll on your own mental health. Getting into a frantic and overwhelmed mindset is natural when you inherently believe that you are the person solely responsible for your older adult’s happiness and health. Here, we provide common myths that caregivers commonly buy into implicitly, and dispel them with truth that you can arm yourself with to be the healthiest and happiest caregiver yourself!
If I don’t do it, no one else will. If I don’t do everything, I am an inadequate caregiver.
This is where delegation comes into play. Delegation is the simple act of assigning tasks to other people in order to accomplish a common goal. In this case, the goal is ensuring that your loved one has a good day. Contrary to what you may believe, you are not the only one who cares for your older adult and wants them to have a great day! Chances are, there are several others who want to contribute in ways that they can to lighten your load by helping their loved one. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. It is both an act of humility and service to admit that you need extra hands to give your older adult the best care they deserve.
If I run out of patience, I am a bad caregiver.
You are finite. You are human. Nobody has unlimited patience. “But shouldn’t I be better than the average person if it’s literally my job to care for another human being?” Your limited capacity for compassion, no matter the size, is not a reflection of how good you are at your job. It is certainly not a reflection of who you are as a person. It is simply a fact that humans cannot function as emotionless robots. There will be days that you feel particularly irritable or impatient. These are not bad words that you have to attach to yourself to make yourself feel like an inadequate caregiver. In the spirit of replacing lies with truth and addressing problems with practical solutions, remember: The best way to regain and maintain stability is to regularly engage in introspection. Check in with how you are feeling. Recognize your emotions and take time for yourself to regroup! Your effectiveness as a caregiver can only be maximized when you are taking the time to care for your own emotions as an individual.
Taking moments for myself means selfishly taking important attention away from the person I’m caring for.
As important as your role is as a caregiver, you are so much more than that. You are your own person with unique passions, hobbies, and other traits. The way that you care for and interact with your older adult is directly shaped by your personality. By investing in yourself, you are actually nurturing the best version of yourself who is capable of providing the most high quality care for your loved one. Taking time to regroup after a difficult interaction or do something that you love does not mean you are abandoning your older adult. Schedule regular breaks, delegate, and come back recharged and refreshed! With that in mind, it is also important to understand that your recharging periods can just be for you. You do not have to view rest as something that needs to be “quality enough” for the sole purpose of serving another person.
We know that these thoughts are oftentimes implicit in the ways that we behave each day, so it takes active work to unlearn these thoughts and replace them with healthy ones that respect both your individuality and your role as a caregiver. We hope that this guide still helped in identifying negative thought patterns and replacing them with grounded realities.