Trying to balance being a caregiver and family life can be a process of constant adjustments. So many challenges and responsibilities push and pull you in different directions; it is easy for your life and the life of your immediate family to spin out of balance.

How to Find Your Balance

Get organized.

You have to do so many things you can’t keep them all in your head. Write them down. Part of the stress of caregiving is the fear that you are forgetting something important. Also, make sure your family is aware of what is happening. Keep a calendar of what you know will be occurring and share it with them. This allows for better planning for everyone.

Talk about your feelings.

Caregiving can keep you so busy there never seems to be a right time to talk about how you are feeling. If you keep everything in it could damage your physical and emotional health. Set aside a regular time to update family and let them know how you are dealing with caregiving.

Share everything.

Caregivers tend to attempt to shoulder all the load and not trouble anyone else about how the responsibility is affecting them. So, when you do talk, share everything—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Listen.

Conversations with your family must be of the give-and-take variety. It’s fine to unload what you are thinking and feeling, but listen to how the people in your family are feeling as well.

Don’t play the blame game.

Being a caregiver can be exhausting and frustrating. You may feel that you are not providing adequate care, resentful that your life has been consumed by caregiving, angry at your immediate or extended family who you feel aren’t supporting you, or just worn out. It’s easy to become bitter and look for someone to blame, but lashing out is not going to make things better. Take a deep breath. Talk about your frustrations, and look for solutions with your family.

Think team.

Marriage and family should be about sharing everything. If you have children old enough to do chores to help out, then it’s not unreasonable to expect them to lend a hand. If your husband or wife can fill in for you in your senior’s home by running some errands, helping with some of the tasks at your home that have normally been yours, that is part of being a team member.

You need some space.

Everyone needs alone time. This is especially true of caregivers who may feel they are “on stage” constantly. You need some time to think, put things in perspective, regroup. Friends or family members are the first people you should call upon to give you some time alone. However, there are also home care organizations that provide respite care—someone who can stay with the senior while you get away for a while.

Remember the simple things.

Thoughtfulness has healing power. Make some time for fun and romance together with your spouse. There should be some carefree time for the two of you to enjoy each other; time that is not about scheduling conflicts, tasks, errands, or other responsibilities. Just telling, or showing, your spouse and children that you love them, and appreciate their support, can go a long way towards easing tension.

Build a support network.

You and your immediate family should not have to take on the full challenge of caregiving alone. Ask friends and other family members for support. Be specific; ask what they are willing to do and when they will be available. If you still aren’t getting the help you need, consider hiring professional assistance.

It’s a Two-Way Street

Keeping your family life in balance while you are caregiving is a two-way street. Your spouse can and should help you maintain balance as well. This might include the following:

Help you set boundaries.

You become so involved in being a caregiver you can easily become unaware of the physical and emotional cost you are incurring. Your spouse can give you some perspective on the need to reach a healthy balance. This is not about complaining or criticizing. It’s about genuine loving concern for your welfare. A spouse of a caregiver can also find out about support groups and other resources the caregiving can access.

Discuss long-term plans.

Your spouse can do some research, and prepare for caregiving needs that may crop up in the weeks or months ahead.

Don’t Get Lost

Above are common steps for achieving a balance between being a caregiver and your family. Don’t get so bogged down in all the details of caregiving that you and your spouse lose sight of one another. It takes a conscious and constant effort to make the needed adjustments to stay in balance.

For tips on finding balance, visit Bethesda’s Caregiver Tips blog.