Here is my latest post that appeared on MariaShriver.com last month.
Self Care for the Caregiver
When I was a caregiver, I remember how hours would turn into days, days into weeks, weeks to months, without one thought of self-care.
Let me clarify: I cared about myself but it often took the form of a prayer, as in: “Please don’t let me get sick, gain weight, have an undiagnosed pain because there’s no time to take care of it.”
I did so much running around with mom — taking her to doctor’s appointments, managing her schedule, her meds and daily care — that I pushed my physical and emotional stuff to the side.
But the thing with “stuff” is that it all has a way of coming back up and getting out in front of you.
A few years ago, I had a double bout of bronchitis that my body couldn’t fight. In years before caring for my mom, when I didn’t feel well or had a cold, I could just get into bed with no worries, because I knew mom was there for me if I needed her.
But this was the first time I was terribly ill in this role of “caregiver” and all I could think of was, “Who takes care of the caregiver?”
All I wanted to do was rest and not have to worry about walking the dog, cooking or taking care of anything other than myself, but Alzheimer’s changed the game.
When I went to the doctor, my mother was with me and she knew I wasn’t feeling well. Even though she couldn’t care for me like she used to, it tickled me when she’d say, “When we get home, you get some rest.”
Regardless of how much Alzheimer’s took from her, I guess there’s still some internal mothering clock that, sadly, she could no longer act on.
Being that this was the first time I was really ill, I never had to think about how I was going to care for mom and for myself. It was a tremendous eye opener.
And in this case I didn’t have the energy or fight within me, so it took longer than normal to get rid of my bronchitis.
It was during that time that I made a promise to start taking better care of myself. I could no longer just say that I cared about myself. I had to start showing that I cared for myself.
Attendants on an airplane will tell you to take the oxygen before you give it to someone else. I wasn’t taking the oxygen that I needed to care for mom and so I began the road to my oxygen by eating more healthfully and getting back into exercising.
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