Are you a caregiver that feels that nobody can do the things that you do, the way they need to be done, when they need to happen? If somebody else handles something, do you find yourself having to go behind them and ‘fix’ what they have done? ARGH!!! Isn’t it just easier to do it yourself than to have to teach somebody else how to do it?? And, if others can’t see what obviously needs to be done and do it, you might as well do it yourself! Right?
Are you doing all the work like Chicken Little because nobody else wants to help (which is an issue that may also need to be addressed) or because you are playing the Lone Ranger? Do you have the (misguided?) notion that you can ride in, do it all, and ride off into the sunset with everyone happy that you have been there?
How exhausting! Caring for elderly parents, can become a huge job! There is the extra help with the house (cleaning, routine maintenance, emergency repairs, yard work, and on and on); help making sure that they are eating properly which may entail help with grocery shopping and sharing meals; they can’t drive anymore and need help getting to all those doctor’s appointments; the finances are getting confusing so now you take on the bill paying and tax work; they are medically fragile and you are spending more time on hospital visits and admissions. Not to mention you have a job and a family! The list goes on….. If you are a caregiver for an aging parent or other senior, I’m sure you have many more things to add.
And for most caregivers, the demands are, at some level, 24/7/365! No break!
Now, if you think you can Lone Ranger yourself through these challenges for more than a couple of months at a time, you may be kidding yourself. Not only that, you may be putting your own health and wellbeing at risk to do so. Statistics show that 13% of caregivers pre-decease the care recipient and it has been determined that caregiver stress plays a role.
May I be so bold as to suggest to you that even the Lone Ranger had a sidekick?! Tonto was the ever-ready, trusty companion and helpmate. Is it possible that you need a Tonto?
So, what are some things that you might need to do to shed your Lone Ranger mask and cape?
Get rid of the burden of suffering that may be coming from guilt, fear of conflict (maybe with your parent or your siblings), inability to see an alternative, stubbornness or a belief that life has to be difficult. Work on recognizing these feelings and tactics for what they are and step away from them!
Identify the payoff for being the martyr and drop that baggage fast. Does doing it all allow you to feel a bit superior to others? Do you enjoy the influx of gratitude for ‘all that you do’? Do you thrive on the sympathy that you receive from others? Really look at things objectively and identify what it is that you gain from your Lone Ranger persona.
Stop waiting for others to read your mind! If they have not figured out by now that you need help, tell them. Open up the conversation and share with them. Use good communications skills, speaking and listening, to find out what the others involved know, need and want. You may find that they don’t even want the same things that you do but at least now you have a place to begin to work from.
Learn to set boundaries so that you don’t betray yourself by saying ‘yes’ when you really want or mean to say ‘no’. Think about how you are going to feel if you do what is requested. Are you going to feel resentful and angry? If so, you need to learn to say ‘no’. Remember that saying ‘no’ to somebody else often means that you are saying ‘yes’ to yourself!
And don’t be afraid to change your behavior by taking even small steps toward improving your situation! Maybe that is finding somebody else that can take over paying Mom’s bills. Make one small change and let it settle on everyone; then you may be ready to make another change.
Being the Lone Ranger as a caregiver is probably the hardest way to do it. Can it be done? I guess, but it does take a toll on the caregiver. Learn ways to take off the cape and mask, even for a short time, to give yourself a break. Let Tonto have a chance.
When you have thrown off that mask and cape, let me hear a ‘Hi-Ho Silver, Away!’ from you! And, if you need some help shedding them, you know where to find me…..
On the journey with you…….Kathy