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Caregiving Matters

There are three things that I have begun to incorporate into my way of thinking as a caregiver. It started when I was in my early 20’s and began to lightly step onto the caregiving path for my aging grandmother. My parents long ago started something, (now defunct), called ‘Caregiving Matters’ when my grandmother was ill, for the issue of creating an avenue of support and to feel less stressed in certain care-giving situations. For about the next eight years I learned a lot about what it means to give selflessly and love unconditionally, while guiltily wanting something else. It was the battle of the self, as I have internalized it; selfless and selfish. 

Love. There has to be unconditional love. Without it, you feel less whole, until you immerse yourself into it, and once it begins there is no greater feeling. You are caring for the person you love, plain and simple. Whether it is for physical pains, mental strife, or all of the before-mentioned, it is love that ultimately carries you both through an awesome and forgiving, (forgiving for the self and for the one you care for), life. 

Want. You have to want a compassionate heart. You aren’t born with compassion, it is a learned value. Sometimes you are not always gifted with having a close relationship to find this compassion; it is felt deep within, pulls on the heart strings, something unknowing and mysterious, tugging at you in the right direction, starting you on the correct path. You won’t know it till you see it, generally, and you won’t see it until you feel it. Compassion is the best value and attribute that shines on personal integrity – from within, you can’t live without. 

Need. This is a two-fold path. There is a benevolent need to help someone other than yourself, but you also must have the need to help your own self. You need to feel self-fulfillment by assisting someone to achieve a better life for them and also to fill that void of “what more can I do”. The second part of this is the need for YOU time. You need to have that extra time to do something for you totally opposite of what the norm is. Play a video game, read a book, find a crafting hobby, or a hobby that for a brief time takes your mind away. And the most important thing to remember is that with all of these things to take your mind away, you are looking for a way to de-stress; do not be afraid to talk with someone to let out stress. The main point in care-giving is while taking care of another, you must not neglect yourself. 

The perspective of the care-giver is oft times over-looked, as the one they are assisting usually takes first chair and rightfully so. But just because you are giving the care to another, doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t give care to yourself, also. 

Comments

This is an excellent article. I moved in with my parents 5 years ago and I was very sick. I had way too much stress in my life and was really having trouble functioning. Now, I am healthy and stable and my bipolar condition is very well managed. I am more functional than a lot of people without any kind of mental illness. I have really focused on doing things that keep me healthy. I volunteer with horses; I have friends I keep in touch with; I take my meds and see my therapist weekly; I see my psychiatrist monthly. My parents health is declining and I am well enough to handle that. I know that I have to stay in my routine and ask for help before I get overwhelmed. I have become a caregiver. This is a great article that I plan to print out and keep as a reminder while our roles are changing. Thanks so much for writing.

The Dalai Lama says we are all born with compassion, it is then cultivated by the parents. It can be taken away just as easily without right concentration and mindfulness. The way I see it, compassion is a lifelong goal--and if you don't strive for it, it will be lost.

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