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Tips for Caregivers: Balancing Your Needs

How a caregiver can balance needs better.

After a stroke left her mother with significant limitations, Bette Scott gladly stepped up to be her caregiver. In contrast to a former life of independence, her mom now had to use a walker, couldn’t drive and needed help organizing medications and appointments. Bette’s father was deceased, so her mother stayed at the family’s home for 10 years.

“We were all blessed that she could live with us,” Bette says. “But caring for her, I often felt very much alone – that no one could understand the challenges of handling another person’s everyday needs, or the repeated daily tasks, and balancing them with my own.”

Throwing Light on the Subject

On a day trip she took with her daughter, Bette observed the brightness of the sun on a mountainside and the interplay with the contrasting shadows below. The sight inspired her to think about “balance,” weighing her own physical and emotional needs with everything her mother required.

“When does caring for someone become more about their needs and struggles, and less about my own?” she asks today. “Caring for someone every day requires balance. The ‘bright’ areas are things that require attention in the present.  Less-pressing things that can be postponed are in the shadows.”

For example, if her mother wasn’t feeling well, her need for Bette to stay with her for a few hours became a bright area. Grocery shopping could wait in the shade.

Six Illuminating Insights

During her experience, Bette developed a list of ideas that would have been very helpful, rewarding and “balancing” for her from the beginning.

  • Have trust, or faith. No one understands why a loved one has to endure sickness. But trusting that there’s a bigger picture, a plan for us, buys time: we don’t have to stress about figuring it out and trying to understand “Why?”
  • Handle the challenges. Caretaking created changes for Bette, but it was also a new life for her mother, who had to accept that her stroke created limitations.
  • Be more than a caretaker. Don’t let someone, or one incident, define you. Many situations, many qualities, make up who you are at any time.
  • Address the “bright” spots first. Always face the need at hand.
  • Stick with what you know. Worrying about or trying to understand what you don’t know will throw you off balance.
  • Keep friends and family close. In her difficult time, Bette found that staying connected with loved ones on their CaringBridge Site reminded her that she was never alone.

A Bright Spot: CaringBridge

“CaringBridge gives you a neighborhood filled with those who love and care about you,” says Bette. Her updates to friends and family via email and Journal entries were a gift to those who cared. And the compassionate and supportive messages she and her mother received in their Guestbook were cherished.

“Your balance may have to be adjusted regularly, and that’s okay,” she says. “Tending to yourself or another brings purpose that will remain forever.”

How Do You Maintain Balance When Giving or Receiving Care?

Please share your experiences and thoughts on the caregiving experience: its value, its challenges, and its rewards.

About the Author:

Bette Scott, a teacher in Pennsylvania, has a heart for caregivers and seniors alike, inspiring her to start a caregiver’s support group in her community in 2010. It now has 20 members. She is a longtime friend of CaringBridge, giving her time as one of our Amplifiers. She also works for two Home Health Agencies – currently doing coursework for certification – and knows the value of environments that nurture and encourage people.

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