Caregiving Demands: Finding Balance With The Never Ending “To Do” List

By Pamela D Wilson MS, BS/BA, CSA, NCG

It is difficult to find balance in caregiving relationships when most caregivers have a never-ending “to do” list. How often do caregivers feel that they are constantly running from place to place with a list rarely completed? The care recipient waits on the other end demanding time and attention If you are a caregiver this may describe your day-to-day reality; never enough time in the day.

Never any time for you. Is it possible to manage when the only thought is, “I’m so tired of caregiving?”

While it is true that we decide how we spend our time, when we accept the role of a caregiver, some of these decisions are made as the result of feelings of duty, responsibility, or guilt. In my book, The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes® the importance of balancing caregiving relationships is discussed as well as the importance of caregivers taking time away from the role of caregiving.

While the life of a caregiver may be hectic and constantly busy, the life of a care recipient may be a life of boredom and isolation. Have you considered how slowly the clock ticks for an aging parent or loved one who may be confined to home because of physical disabilities or health concerns? Have you considered why a loved one diagnosed with memory loss may exhibit problematic behaviors when left alone for long periods of time?

The Importance of Compassion

In my 20+ years as a caregiving advocate and a family caregiver who lost 50% of my family by the age of 40 years, I am very familiar with the challenges of caregiving. Caregivers benefit from support and connecting with others in similar situations. At times the stress can be overwhelming. The role of caregiving makes us hyper-vigilant waiting for the next disastrous phone call or other problem that has to be solved quickly. Family disagreements and conflicts occur. There are times when we can’t make anyone happy.

How many of you have a dog who has at one time or another gotten into a bit of trouble, maybe chewing up your most expensive pair of shoes or destroying a piece of furniture? If so you likely learned that the dog’s behaviors occurred as the result of a need for more stimulation, companionship, or exercise. While comparing the behaviors of a pet to the behaviors of a care recipient may seem degrading, the premise is the same. When a care recipient or a pet is left alone for long periods of time with no activity, human contact, or mental stimulation negative behaviors occur.

When you return home, your care recipient craves attention and wants to be with you. Your only desire after a long day at work with many demands may be to retreat to a bubble bath or to read the evening newspaper and drink a glass of wine. You may be exhausted and your plan was not to devote more time and attention to a spouse or a parent care recipient—yet this may be exactly the action that you take.

What Choices Are You Making To Relieve Caregiver Stress?

What about you? What steps can you take when caregiving becomes too much?

Statistics indicate that caregivers experience high levels of stress, anxiety, chronic disease, and depression. While it may seem impossible to take time away from a caregiving situation, taking time away is exactly what you must do if you hope to manage your physical and emotional health.

Find a family member or a friend who might spend an evening or a weekend day with your loved one or hire a caregiving companion agency to provide support. Little breaks, even if only for a few hours here and there, are beneficial to your ability to continue in the role of a caregiver without experiencing feelings of frustration and anger—common to many caregiving situations. You are not alone.

Caregiver support in the form of information like articles, podcasts, or videos that offer practical information are supportive. Interaction in live groups is also beneficial to increase self-esteem and confidence in making caregiving decisions. The ability to search for information that is of interest in a library is another option.

Complaining Without Taking Action Is Not a Solution

How many times do we resort to complaining about a situation but doing nothing? Venting can be a positive activity if we vent and then move on.

Many individuals don’t realize that they have a pattern of complaining and doing nothing. An aging parent, for example, may complain about not feeling well but does nothing to improve the situation. Adult children may complain about the time involved in caregiving but do nothing to find other options.

While we all want to “feel heard” and have our feelings validated, constant complaining without taking action is not a solution. Do you do this without realizing you are complaining? Monitor your conversations in the next week to see how many times you complain without considering a positive solution. Maybe it’s time to focus on solutions and feeling positive instead of dwelling on the negatives and actions that seem hopeless or impossible.

Negative Feelings Are Common in Caregiving

Caregiving stress and the isolation of caregiving results in depression and negative feelings. When caregiving interrupts a life and the stress feels like being in a pressure cooker, it can feel like there is no way out and few solutions.

Caregivers lack the confidence to make changes in a caregiving situation because of fear of upsetting an aging parent or spouse. Because caregivers tend to place their feelings below others in caregiving situations, feelings of guilt chip away at self-confidence and self-esteem.

Caregiving is hard work. Caregivers accept the responsibility without knowing the scope of the tasks, the time involved, and how caregiving and life will collide. When caregiving becomes a role, tradeoffs occur about other aspects of life. Caregivers become isolated as the focus on friendships and hobbies disappears in favor of time caregiving for an aging parent or spouse.

Solutions for caregivers exist, yet few caregivers take advantage of available supports. Caregiving situations will not improve without action. Caregivers benefit from support to regain confidence and self-esteem.

Navigate Common Caregiving Situations in Five Simple Steps

Many caregivers, when overwhelmed, freeze and fail to take action. If you don’t change the dynamic of your situation where will you be in one week, one month, or one year? In exactly the same overwhelmed place? Taking action to receive support will help you feel more in control of your caregiving situation.

Few men express feelings about caregiving because they feel that bearing caregiving responsibility is part of life. Women are better at expressing their feelings. While the ratio of female caregivers remains 60:40, as more men become caregivers the need for support will increase.

Below are 5 options to receive valuable support based on my personal experience as a caregiving advocate. Reduce anxiety, stress, frustration, or guilt and gain confidence and improve self-esteem. It’s all good from here. These tips and information will also help you successfully navigate many common caregiving situations.

©2014, 2019, 2021  Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved.

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