young woman taking medicine from a pill box .

The Beginnings of My Caregiving Journey

 

One of my first caregiving duties was counting out my mother’s medication with her several times a day. I was around 8 years old, maybe 9. Sitting at our table in the small house behind our church we rented from them for $1/month, we counted out ten small pills. I think they must have been the Prednisone. And then there was the other medication, the one she had to take every four hours around the clock – two of those every four hours, every day, around the clock, or she could die.

At least that’s how I understood it at the time. These medications were very important to her survival as were a few other things. She couldn’t get overly stressed out, her body couldn’t be overly taxed, she had to manage her energy, and I, as her daughter, along with our other family members, would be her helpers. That’s what family is for, to help, support, and give care when one of us needs it. We filled in the gaps.

 

The Burden and Burnout

 

So that is what we did, what I did, and what I kept doing and still do. But there were times when the weight of that responsibility, along with the increasing demands of her illness and her fears of losing control of her care, caused me to lose sight of the true art of caregiving and what was within my capacity and what was far beyond it.

My burnout didn’t come in a big wave that overwhelmed me. It came in the little moments that kept building and building. Thirty-five years later, still counting pills, not ten plus two, but 37. Thirty-seven pills each day, counting them out for the week.

But it wasn’t even the counting of pills or the keeping track of medications, or the errands, or doctor’s appointments, or bed baths, or meal preparation. It was that all of it wasn’t enough. The gaps that I had promised to fill were still there, and she was falling through. And so was I. And all the pills and the errands, the bed baths and food prep, it just kept piling on and piling up until there felt like no way out.

 

Finding Balance and Support

 

Was this my life? Was this hers? Day after day just making sure she made it to the next medication time, the next doctor’s appointment, the next treatment, the next morning? I needed a mother, but I had a patient. She needed a daughter but had a burned-out and guilt-ridden caregiver. The idea that stepping back and asking for help, essentially providing less care, would be what saved us both seemed impossible.

But that is what happened—or at least that is how I feel as I write this today. My mom has more support and the medical care she deserves, and while it’s not perfect, she receives the around-the-clock care she needs. I have the space to care for myself, tend to my needs, and connect with my family, friends, and other caregivers. I also have my mom back. And she has her daughter.

Rediscovering My Role as a Daughter

 

What is the point of caring for your loved one if it is hurting both of you? If it pulls you apart from yourself, each other, and the rest of your life? And, more importantly, is that really the “care” you want to give? My burnout recovery began the day I decided that I wasn’t willing to give up myself, my mother’s daughter, to do the impossible task of filling in the gaps that were too big and only going to get bigger. It started the day that I decided I that I could choose to care for my mom AND care for myself, that I could tend to her needs and still tend to my own, and that I didn’t have to do it all alone.

 

The Importance of Self-Care for Caregivers

 

There are many people who can count pills, do personal care, make meals, and address my mom’s medical needs. But I am my mom’s only daughter. I am the only one who can give that to her. So when I think about the care I give to my mom, I keep a close eye on what others do for her, but I give my full heart and mind to what I can only give her: my love, a daughter’s love.

 

Offering Help and Hope to Fellow Caregivers

 

But I don’t just stop there. I remember that one of the biggest blessings a parent can receive from their child is a life well lived. I want my mom to know that I am safe and loved, that I have a life and family I love, and that I am okay and will be okay. She has done enough. I have done enough. We are enough. It is all enough.

If you are struggling to know that you are enough, that you are doing enough, and want to break free of burnout and guilt, I am here to tell you it is possible and to help you find your way.

 Get started on your journey to create a healthy caregiving relationship that helps you feel good, not guilty today. Let’s hop on a 30-minute RESET call! Click here.

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