Why do we feel that being selfless is good? We believe that the more we do for others, the better person we are. Certainly when a loved one is sick or unable to care for their own needs, we want to relieve their suffering. We do feel better about ourselves when we do our best to comfort or nurture. But, there is a fine line between doing our best versus depleting ourselves. There have been several recent studies showing that caregivers who give too much of themselves pay the price both physically and psychologically. If you give to the point where you are suffering, your ability to meet the rest of life’s demands is compromised, too. Thus, the decision to become a caregiver is one which must be made carefully. Many of us have fantasies of being the knight in shining armor; we especially think that caring for a beloved parent will be a wonderfully satisfying experience. And it can be, if it is the right decision for the loved one and for you and your family. Prior to making the decision, explore all the possible options you have:
Talk to other caregivers
Review the expectations with your loved one and his/her doctor
Honestly discuss things with your family
In addition, do a little community research—you may be surprised how many relevant and helpful services are available in your own town
Be aware that caregiving can be exhausting; depending on the health of the patient, it literally can be a 24/7 commitment. The more preparation you do, the better. Find other caregivers who are caring for someone with a similar situation to yours either through your doctor, a local social worker, your community, or even online. Ask them what is the best way to prepare your home, what you need to buy or rent, and to share their coping tips.
Be aware that the person you are caring for may not act like the person you are used to. Being incapacitated, taking medications which can alter mood or behavior, and simply feeling lousy can dramatically alter mood and tolerance for any changes in their routine. Speak to those currently caring for him or her and get advice on the times of day when they tend to feel at their best, their favorite activities, food preferences, and what to avoid.