Selfless Love: Being a Caretaker
I have recently been giving a lot of thought to what it means to be a caretaker, having been one myself at one point in life. Many people would reach out to me asking how my loved one was doing, and after a few months, I realized no one ever asked me about myself. This got me thinking about different signs caretakers might need taking care of themselves as well. We are constantly worrying about ourselves and our health. While this means taking care of our body psychically and mentally, we live in a world of fear. We mainly give our attention to those who need it, and sometimes that also comes with a price for those doing the work to keep them well. If you were to google “caretaker,” something like taking care of a “sick” individual as either a job or a role you were assigned to by chance will most likely come up. The missing open-ended questions are:
- How long are you going to be a caretaker?
- To what extent does this mean personally to you?
- What are the expectations?
- How does this jeopardize your health?
These are a few examples of different questions and concerns that come with being a caretaker. Our attention is fixed only to those going through a temporary or terminal disease but rarely to those around us. Becoming someone’s caretaker can consume a person to lose one’s identity. I’ll discuss some ways a person may begin to feel a loss of identity with the attachment of being a caretaker and how one can jump over these obstacles without falling through.
- Making time for your own needs
Yes, being a caretaker can mean putting one’s life aside to assist one that may need it more now. Still, it is easy to forget that if we are not okay ourselves, we will most likely not be the best caretaker either.
- Having a good idea of when you are most needed/likely to be of assistance and setting that time apart so you can have time to do what you need for yourself
- Listing expectations that are viable to you and letting go of those that are not in your control
- Being aware that while helping someone in need, being a caretaker is only a part of your life but not the entirety of your complex being
- Breaking out of routine caretaker needs like:
- going for a walk
- going out to get a meal
- meeting up with a friend
- Recognizing when you are on the cusp of burnout:
- Listen to your body/mind when you are not feeling like yourself or are not enjoying activities you once did
- Listen to your gut and learn how to step back when being a caretaker is feeling overwhelming to you
- Express your feelings:
- Take the time to talk to someone who may have gone through the same thing and can empathize with similar feelings/speak to a therapist whom you trust to express your feelings
After thinking about what it means to be a caretaker, I ended up with the complex meaning behind it and how much we don’t discuss it. A caretaker is a very, if not one of the most, critical roles in a person’s life and essential for their recovery and their individual needs. The next time I encounter a caretaker, I will view them differently. I will recognize the strength in being there for someone when they can’t be there for themselves, a hand when falling, and the friend we never knew we needed. Next time I see a caretaker, I will ask about them and their feelings and needs because any caretaker needs to be taken care of as well.
If you or anyone you know is a caretaker or are looking for someone to talk to, schedule an appointment today so we can discuss how to better take care of yourself or any loved one around you.