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What Makes a Caregiver?

Updated: Mar 19, 2021

We are not bound by antiquated definitions of who caregivers are or what we do. Caregivers are a stabilizing force to the lives of many, We comprise teams of essential professionals and about 65 million crucial family caregivers across the US. We include parents, partners caring for an ill or disabled spouse, adult children caring for older parents, nurses, teachers, doctors, emergency personnel. We are seniors, we are middle aged, we are young- sometimes postponing goals to prioritize long term needs. A recent Forbes magazine article highlighted current research and the increased role of new caretakers by millennials and those from Gen-Z. We are women, we are men, we are Black, we are white, Latinx, Native American, Asian, and every ethnicity. We make up every background, every backyard, every front porch, every kitchen, every bedside, every class - in person and virtual, every hospital room. That’s who we are. That’s who you are.

You shoulder responsibilities driven by passion and/or necessity to serve, to help, because you didn’t see another way, because there weren’t other options. You’ve been doing it. You see a sacrifice and don’t turn away. Your efforts have supported and saved lives. You’ve selflessly manned countless overnight shifts at home and at work, getting by on fumes for energy. You’ve comforted and calmed, helped and hoped for. You’ve endured, facing triumph, transition, and loss.

You’re strong. Yet strength and resilience don’t only come into being when we’re serving others. Sometimes we view this concept with a one-sided lens. However, it’s worth noting that we can’t expand our vision of what needs to be done if we’re only looking outward. As caregivers, we need to reflect on what we’re experiencing internally too. In the same way that we learn and gain awareness of the needs of others, it’s also a necessary reality for you to be strong for yourself.

How often do you reflect on your own needs, the areas of your life that work and those areas that don’t? Consider whether you’ve created any consistent boundaries for yourself, any standards for your own care, your personal red flags, the lines you will not cross. What are the things emotionally and physically that would improve the quality of your life? Are you ready to make that happen? Can you imagine the positive gains to your life? Often, we avoid our feelings because it seems easier than facing our reality, deceives us into believing that we can give back when we ourselves feel empty, exhausted, overwhelmed. We must move beyond the barriers in our own mind so that giving doesn’t remain one sided.

You can do this by:

· Practicing mindfulness which allows you to be present in your life now, creating awareness to avoid living in the past

· Identifying your non negotiables - What do you need in your life to be well? to live well? to care for yourself without guilt?

· Maintaining boundaries that include how you treat yourself and how you interact with everyone else

· Allowing yourself to feel, recognizing that honesty allows you to give your best to yourself and others

· Communicating needs and accepting help from others in the position to support you

· Seeking counsel and professional care when you need it

· Making time to heal by setting aside even brief periods for quiet, rest, and reflection

· Creating spaces in your home that soothe you and add function to support your life and those you love and serve

· Discovering spaces in nature that invite balance and peace

· Developing spiritual and creative outlets to maintain faith, inspiration and enjoyment

· Using positive affirmations to remind yourself that you’re worth the effort of accepting the discomfort of change

· Realizing that even positive change can be uncomfortable at first, for a little while, and until you believe you need it

· Allowing yourself the honesty that you don’t have to be available all the time, you can’t put out every fire, and you alone can’t be responsible for solving every problem.

Share with yourself the care that you give to others.

Make Time for Healing.


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