4 Ways to Maintain Your Own Well-Being as a CaregiverBy Lisa B Capp
According to reports from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP approximately 43.5 million Americans provide unpaid care for an adult or child. That’s over 20% of the general adult population in this country! The baby boomer generation represents the largest group of unpaid caregivers today.
With illnesses that have no sustained treatment or cure, millennials are next in line as caregivers if they aren’t already serving in that capacity to grandparents diagnosed or parents with early onset conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
After diagnosis, an illness normally plays out in stages. I think about the arc of my mother’s life from college sorority sister, to wife, mother and careerwoman, through my father’s passing, followed by her 18-year dementia journey and, ultimately, her death.
A caregiver’s life plays out in stages, too. I had a career that took me to clients around the globe and my husband had a demanding job. We enjoyed friends, were engaged in our community and, although we had no children, had settled into a fulfilling life-after infertility. It was in the midst of my so-called life that my mom came to live with us and I learned about being a care partner.
In situations like ours, caregivers are encouraged to stay healthy and to focus on their well-being in addition to the well-being of those in their care. What we may never fully appreciate in caregiving is that our well-being isn’t just the absence of physical disease. Well-being is a complex combination of physical, mental, emotional, and social factors.
What is fundamental to our health is the link we have to happiness and satisfaction within our lives. For caregivers supporting a loved one with a debilitating illness, happiness and satisfaction can be elusive concepts in the day-to-day act of caregiving. This is especially true with illness that encompasses several stages or can span many years.
By accepting well-being as a state of mind, we can feel more control to take small steps after diagnosis. When trying to answer the question “what’s possible,” consider the following:
Don’t Judge What You Are Feeling
From initial denial and detection through diagnosis and the various stages of decline, your feelings will vacillate wildly. A care partner takes a distinctly different emotional p