How to Accept that Caregiving has Changed Your Life
New caregivers often take on their duties with open hearts and the best intentions, rarely stopping to consider that the role they have acquired could last for years or the drastic changes their lives will undergo. With so much to occupy their minds, it often takes months before caregivers finally stop and ask themselves, “How do I accept the fact that I have to leave behind the life I was accustomed to in order to serve as the primary caregiver to my parents?”
When becoming a caregiver, many individuals simply put their lives on hold with the assumption that life as they knew it will resume soon enough. It quickly becomes apparent that this is not the case. Once realizing that the life they put on “hold” is really their new reality, there is some mental adjustment to undergo.
Regardless of what age caregivers are when they begin the journey, their life course is bound to change. If you are part of the sandwich generation and your kids are at home with you and your parents, it takes some readjusting to figure out how to spread out your time and share it evenly among all your loved ones. If your children left the nest before you became a caregiver, it is quickly apparent you will need to readjust your retirement plans.
Many caregivers are couples who are both employed full-time with a plan for retirement that often includes traveling or moving to a more desirable climate, among other things. However, with all the medical advances, parents are living longer than ever before, leaving caregivers harboring feelings of resentment.
Nobody enjoys feeling the weight of resentment barreling down on their shoulders. Many caregivers find themselves wondering what to do and how to adjust to their new lifestyles without carrying around their resentment. Finding a little solace in your life requires you to release some of the burden so that you can abandon some of the resentment.
- If your parents live with you, get them some in-home help. Allow yourself to become comfortable enough with the outside help that you can take a day, or seven, off from caregiving to re-energize.
- Ask yourself if all of the effort you are putting toward caregiving is worth the result. Are you simply trying to control an uncontrollable situation? Assess how effective your care is so you can become more efficient.
- If you quit your job with the assumption that you would resume after a short hiatus only to discover this option does not appear to be in the cards anymore, re-evaluate your situation. You need to think about your own retirement, sanity and options. You may decide that it is best for you to remain caregiving at home, but it is also good to examine your options so you don’t feel as though you are being backed into a corner later on
- If your loved one lives in an assisted living facility or a nursing home and you are running to their side (multiple times) daily, but they aren’t in dire health, reassure yourself that the care they are receiving is good. If you find they are in good hands, cut yourself some slack. It is not the end of the world if you skip a day of seeing your parents. Sure, they would like to see you every day, but you have to take time for yourself as well.
- If you find that regardless of how you look at your life, you are still filled with resentment, you may want to consider seeing a counselor. Talking through life’s problems with an objective outside party may do wonders for your psyche.
Once you realize your life has been altered for an unknown time period and that you need to make changes to establish some normalcy, you will find the task of balancing your life much easier. While you have to accept that your life has undergone changes, you do not have to change your life completely. Doing so will only led to feelings of resentment and anger. Once the emergency that landed you into caregiving has subsided, there is no reason to allow your life to go down in flames – your parents wouldn’t want it to.