For some family caregivers, finding themselves in the crossroads of caring for a parent and a partner can exacerbate the caregiving experience to a level that many others are unable to comprehend. Aside from learning how to manage and cope with a parent's illness, having to deal with a partner's health concerns can cause a loved one to feel even more isolated, depressed, anxious, etc., especially if their partner is the person they regularly turned to for emotional support and comfort. Managing, coping and maintaining are all ideas that can seem so foreign during this period but learning new strategies and continuing to utilize strategies that have worked is crucial. Below are a few strategies that often prove beneficial to family caregivers I've worked with...
1) Prioritize - part of being able to get through this difficult time is being able to identify what needs to come first, what can come second and what can be delegated to someone else. Without doing so, your world can suddenly seem as if it is crashing down all at the same time. Begin by identifying which days of the week are critical for you to be with your parent vs. your partner, and identifying which tasks need to be handled by you vs. handled by other individuals. Doing so can help maximize the quality time you have with your loved ones as opposed to spending it doing things that impede on that time (i.e. going to the pharmacy, grocery store, etc.)
2) Recognize Your Limitations - It is okay if you can't do it all because chances are, you can't! Asking for help, taking a break and accepting the fact that you are not a superhero are some of the challenges many family caregivers struggle with. This is generally the case when family and/or societal pressures are causing them to feel otherwise. After identifying some of the responsibilities you have, which you would love for someone else to do, the next step is to identify any individuals and resources that can help with those tasks and ask them. While it may, at first, seem like there is nothing/no one that can help, don't be so quick to make that conclusion. While you may have no one in your immediate family/social circle, don't discount the help you may be able to receive from your neighbors, local religious organizations and community agencies. Many family caregivers I've worked with are often surprised at how much is actually out there and in many cases often find out about the services after the fact.
3) Eat Well, Sleep Well and Cherish the Little Moments - There is a lot to be said about the power of good sleep, healthy eating and being appreciative. The amount of energy you exert in any given day to care for someone else is energy that has to be restored. Without tapping in to regenerating sources like sleep, nutrition and positivity, you are losing energy and will end up running on low. Thus, ultimately impacting how much you can physically and emotionally give to caring for your loved ones. While there are many techniques that can be utilized to enhance sleeping and eating habits, the first step is to acknowledge their importance and be proactive about incorporating it in to your routine. The same holds true for appreciating the positive things in your life, no matter how small.
Are you caring for a parent and a significant other? How are you managing? Please share any insight or questions you have below. I also welcome any questions you may have.
For some individuals, seeing a therapist is a necessary component to their ability to function. For others, therapy is viewed as a temporary solution to get over a "bump in the road." Regardless of how you view therapy, it is important to be aware of some of the common issues individuals may experience which could indicate the need for therapy. Below are a few of those issues:
1) Trouble Sleeping – any significant changes like difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much is usually a sign that something is wrong. Barring any underlying medical conditions, it is important to understand how problems related to work, home, health, or even within a relationship usually have a way of "creeping up" on an individual once they are settling in to relax. This can especially be true if an individual is trying to postpone dealing with a particular issue or is unsure how to cope.
2) Significant Changes in Your Normal Routine – changes associated with lose of appetite, mood, lack of interest in hobbies, etc., may also be a sign that therapy is warranted - especially if there is no medical explanation for the behavioral change. Regardless of how big or small the change is perceived, if significant enough, it can trigger an emotional and physiological response that the person may have little to no cotnrol over. Being able to identify changes in one's routine, can help an individual be proactive about getting the appropriate medical and/or mental health care needed.
3) Lack of a Support Network – the inability for an individual to speak with family or friends about what they are feeling is generally the result of either not having a supportive network or believing the network will be judgmental. Having someone to talk to regarding your innermost thoughts along with the ability to obtain constructive feedback, can be beneficial in many different ways. Therapy allows for such support, feedback and validation.
Knowing when you should seek therapy is definitely not as easy as it sounds. Being aware of some of the above changes, however, could allow for someone to reach out sooner as opposed to when they feel hopeless.
Do you have any other changes/symptoms you feel are important when trying to identify when someone should seek therapy? If so, please share them below.