Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Self Care for Caregivers

Everybody should be quiet near a little stream and listen. Ruth Krauss

What gives people the strength and endurance to take care of others over a period of time? While most of us are happy to help people out now and then, a number of my friends are providing long-term care.

- Some have helped a struggling parent for a decade.
- One has patiently taken care of a bed-ridden wife for eight years.
- One dealt with her husband’s ongoing depression.
- Another copes with his wife’s dementia, knowing that it will only get worse
            and additional care will be required.

To help others takes energy from our lives, but most of us have other activities, and time to rest, that restore that energy. But to help someone over the long run often requires that we are on-call, have to frequently change our plans to help them, and this pulls energy from our reserves, because we don’t have time away to recharge. On some days we’re exhausted and getting out of bed is hard. Yet we get up, and go to help someone.

If we don’t recharge our batteries, the lights in our eyes will flicker and go dark.

When it’s family, it’s harder to set personal boundaries. And if we are the only family member left, it’s almost impossible to say no. We feel such guilt!

How do people who are taking care of others, take care of themselves? How do they recharge? Some go hiking in nature. Some find renewal in their faith. Some do yoga, garden, or build things with their hands. Some craft pottery or write poetry.

Those we help appreciate the physical things we do for them — the cleaning, cooking shopping, and mowing the lawn — they also value our presence, conversations, and smile. I suspect that when we are worn out, the bounce goes from our steps and our joyfulness disappears. Sometimes the joy we bring into someone’s closed-in life is the most important thing that we do for them.

Sometimes when we have to give more than we think we are able, we are carried by something greater than ourselves, and there are moments of grace. Sometimes we push too far and are left with a residue of resentment.

Life is best lived in balance. We know that. There are times when we have to set our needs aside and help someone else. There are also times when we need to say “no” and step away from our busyness and obligations to take care of ourselves.

If we don’t, who will?


  1. Here's to those glorious moments of grace. There is so much exhaustion between those moments and, yes, resentment. I have a little adrenaline surge into action any time my mother-in-law's nursing home calls. I always expect it's another crisis. Slowly I'll learn that they'll handle it now and I don't have to--but they have to call me to report falls even if she isn't hurt. Ten days ago, they had to take her to the ER for stitches. They handled it. I saw her the next day. Whew!!

    1. It was a relief when my dad went into assisted living because we knew there were people right there to help, instead of him being alone at home. There were still his phone calls, however, wanting us to help.

    2. Thanks, Elaine. I hope that you'll now be able to have more balance to your day.