Part of being a caretaker is giving of yourself. But no one can continually give of themselves forever: it’s not healthy and it leads to burnout. This blog series is all about how to get out of the stew pot if you realize that you are serving up too much of yourself!
To get out of the stew pot, you need to find some other ingredients.
When I had my daughter, I had a community surrounding me and helping me. And I still fell into post partum depression. If I hadn’t had such a good support network, I shudder to think how much worse things would have been for me and my daughter. Caretaking is inherently isolating, which means somehow a caretaker needs to find the energy not only to care for herself, but also to maintain or build her relationships.
Create referral lists
Research the options for support in your area. There’s probably a support group for people doing the kind of caretaking you’re doing, whether it’s caring for aging relatives, disabled kids, mentally ill people, etc. There may also be resources for the person you are taking care of.
Connect with a spiritual community where you and your charge will be accepted and loved. I know most people describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” but finding a loving spiritual community is one aspect of “religion” that is underrated. This is a lot of work: you may have to visit several communities before you find a good fit. And a church or temple or synagogue isn’t going to have all the answers. But it gives you another layer of support.
Find places where you can leave your charge safely to get some time for yourself. If you’re on Facebook, you can do a search to get started there. Whether you need a babysitter, a nurse, or some kind of adult daycare, there are plenty of options. It is vital that you have at least 2 other people who can take over care. Not just because that’s better for your health, but also because if you were to have a horrible accident, your charge still needs care.
Learn to delegate. None of the steps above will be effective if you can’t let go and delegate. Trust in the people you have chosen. If you put your child in a daycare or school, trust them to be competent and live up to your expectations. If your charge joins a support group, trust the leader of that group to guide it without your input.
Maintain Healthy Boundaries
I have written pages and pages about boundaries, but it never gets old. You must maintain healthy boundaries with your charge. It’s harder to have boundaries in a care taking relationship because there is an imbalance of power. You have more control and responsibility than your charge. The average mother or adult child can unconsciously create and maintain boundaries because that’s a normal part of life. But when your situation is not average, it gets harder. As a mother, I’m not going to rescue my daughter if she overdraws her checking account one day. But if my daughter had a disability that made it impossible for her to handle money, then that’s not an appropriate boundary. I need to find a way to manage her money and still maintain boundaries.
This is where your community comes in. If you can find a support group, ask the other members how they create boundaries. If you are in a religious community and struggle with guilt over boundaries, talk to your leader and other community members about how to handle guilt feelings. If you have one or two other major care takers for your charge, talk to them about what they do that works well.
Taking care of others is not easy. But it doesn’t have to consume you.