The Family Caregiver Alliance Fact Sheet reminds us “On an airplane, an oxygen mask descends in front of you. What do you do? The first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting anyone else. Only when we care for ourselves can we effectively help others.” Unfortunately, when it comes to caregiving, this is not the practice. We usually see “Over-caring” as the normal state of affairs.
Over-caring is the detrimental practice of over-committing and over-extending oneself in caregiving duties. It occurs when a caregiver’s sole focus is his or her loved one, often at the expense of other personal relationships. Over-caring caregivers constantly check on their loved one or patient unnecessarily, trying to fix problems and helping with tasks and decisions that the patient and/or family can handle on their own. They often feel indispensible, i.e. no one can do the task like they can. The over-caring caregiver has a need to be needed.
While it is important for caregivers to connect with their loved one, over-caring should be avoided for the good of both the loved one and the caregiver. Some tips for avoiding over-caring include:
- Take care of yourself and your needs first and foremost. This will keep you healthy so you can care be an effective caregiver.
- Be aware of the dangers of over-caring. Utilize respite services and take a needed break.
- Forgive and nurture yourself when you do become too emotionally involved or bonded.
- Find other routes to personal happiness, such as exercise, hobbies, clubs, or healthy relationships. Personal caregiver services care be arranged to come in when you are out.
As a caregiver, you can also help yourself stay strong and physically and emotionally healthy by practicing good time management skills, setting goals, refusing to multitask or over-commit and using appropriate delegation techniques. Building a strong network of support and acceptance is necessary to be able to receive as much support as you are putting out. Above all, you must take time to renew your spirit and take emotional breaks when necessary. The best way to effectively assist those in your care is to first care for you. Remember, you are not alone on your journey.
Editor’s Note: Submitted by Valerie Taylor, RN, BSN, Elder Care Specialist for South Texas Alternative Choice, LLC. She may be reached at 210-239-1167 or visit her on the web at www.gostac.com