Caring for the Caregiver

Sandwich GenerationI recently participated in a forum dedicated to Baby Boomers caring for growing children and aging parents. If you’re a member of the Sandwich Generation, you may be interested in listening to some PODCASTS. You’ll find interesting panel discussions about Boomerang Kids, longterm caregiving and being stuck in the middle, all packed full of compassion, ideas and resources.

The statistics are staggering: over 40 million Americans provide care for loved ones who are unable to care for themselves. At times these struggles call for total devotion. And according to AARP, the collective 37 billion hours spent carrying out these responsibilities would cost $470 billion.

Often caregivers neither recognize the value of their contribution nor get the support they deserve. And this imbalance impacts their overall wellbeing. Encouraging them to look inward can shift the focus toward some of their own physical and emotional needs:

Access your moral compass. Where are the values that you internalized early on that have been a guiding light in the past? In your present circumstances negative emotions – frustration, guilt or resentment – are common and normal. They need to be acknowledged and accepted, especially when you’re adjusting to new challenges.

Access your strengths. Rely on your character to make sense of the chaos within you. And honor your path. Perhaps you’re empathic by nature and grateful to be of service. Or you’re curious and determined to find solutions to the problems you’re facing. It’s your positive attributes that will fuel your passion and help you feel fulfilled.

 Access the goals that matter. What are your dreams? Draw on internal resources as you reconnect with your driving force. It’s what you want, not the expectations of others,  that frees you to be true to yourself. Make a wish list – an hour each day spent reading, enjoying a walk, meeting with friends – and take small action steps, one after another.

Your work may be a mixture of confusion, reward and exhaustion. Find the pace you can sustain. And when you have compassion fatigue, take a respite.

Mindfulness is a practice for enhancing self-awareness and reducing stress. Taking deep breaths and counting them becomes a port in the storm. As you focus on the present, see it as a mental timeout. We all need a reset button, free from distraction. And never think, for one moment, that you don’t deserve it.

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