Feelings of inadequacy are an occupational hazard of caregiving. If the person you are caring for is someone you love, like your mother or father, you might feel like you can never do enough. So you pour yourself out. In addition to all the tasks that must be done, you look for opportunities to add joy to their day. But you find yourself simply not accomplishing that goal. So you try harder and harder, until you are in such a state of exhaustion, both physically and emotionally, that you’re not even able to accomplish the bare minimum, much less the lofty goal of selfless loving care.
It’s not working. But what’s the alternative? To do less?
This is not a commentary about how to find respite care. Maybe you’ve already enlisted professional care, or maybe it’s financially out of reach. Maybe you’ve already availed yourself of as much help from family and friends as they’re willing to give. Respite care is a wonderful thing, but it’s not always obtainable.
Instead, here are some slightly counterintuitive suggestions for how you can paradoxically preserve your sense of self without giving up on your goal of selflessness.
Caregiving is a matter of self-sacrifice. There’s no way around it. But by tuning in a bit to your own needs—the ones you actually experience, and not only the ones that have an air of legitimacy—you will be more present, more accessible, and more helpful in the long run to your loved one.