by: Christine M. Valentin, LCSW: Posted on Sunday, July 10, 2011 10:14 PM
How often as a family caregiver have you heard “Take care of yourself” or “Don’t let yourself get too stressed” ? You may have heard it from your friends, distant relatives, doctor, clergy member, etc. You may have also heard questions like “How is your mother/father/husband/wife/significant ther?”
But…how often do you hear “How are you doing?” or “What do you need?” Chances are you don’t hear it that often. Why?
Because many people don’t realize that by solely inquiring about the person you are caring for, they are inadvertently ignoring you and making it seem like your needs don’t matter. As a result, it could leave you feeling overlooked and unimportant.
Questions like the latter ones stated above can go a long way in helping family caregivers feel important and
validated, which can help them make the first step to take care of themselves.
So, how do you as the family caregiver make the first step to taking care of yourself if you can't control what
questions other people ask you? Well, I encourage you to be bold and talk about yourself. What I mean by this is you should tell the inquiring person how YOU are managing and what YOU are having a hard time dealing with. In my experience,
family caregivers always felt a sense of relief and rejuvenation after they were able to talk about what was bothering them and what they could use help with.
As a result, I always advise family caregivers to talk about their needs whenever someone asks “How is your mom?”Go
ahead, give that person an update on mom’s condition BUT be sure to include yourself. Saying something like “Mom is doing better but I’m not sure how much more I can handle.I could really use _______ (fill in the blank)” can be a
perfect way to nonchalantly update them on your situation.
By expressing your needs you are taking the first step in caring for yourself. Yes, some people may not know how to
respond to your statement but there is always someone who will offer you the comfort and reassurance you need to get through that day. Not expressing your needs, however, may cause people to assume you can handle everything on your own
leaving them to say nothing else but a “Be sure to take care of yourself.”
Have you had such an experience? If so, please share. Also, feel free to provide tips on how other family caregivers
can begin to care for their own needs.