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The Resilient Caregiver

Challenge and Opportunity

In these historic times of social and economic unrest, most of us do our best to believe that, at the end of the day, our glass will remain half-full and not half-empty. Although we may become discouraged by the stressors of daily life, these challenges make us stronger when we take the opportunity to savor special moments with people who are important to us. We are practicing serendipity – the act of transforming adversity into inspiration.
 
Caregivers - individuals who have responsibility for the safety and well-being of a dependent person - understand what it’s like to live with uncertainty, and be persistent in the face of exhaustion and worry. They become attuned to the power of compassion that emanates from attending to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the person in their care. This is serendipity in action - the ability to “get up and dust yourself off” after the daily pitfalls of caregiving gives individuals the strength to move beyond surviving to thriving – for a few minutes, a few days, a few years.
 
This is resiliency - the “bounce back-ability” to achieve your personal best as a result of difficult times - and the wisdom to respond (not react) to changing circumstances. Resilient people are flexible and creative – they flow with change instead of resisting it, and focus on the value of being instead of doing.
 
In Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Deepak Chopra, M.D. says that “the wisdom of uncertainty” is a source of growth, understanding and acceptance. We may not always enjoy the process, but the experience of caregiving can create healing and resolution. We learn to adapt when we accept the fact that our mother, wife, brother, friend may not “get better,” and that both caregivers and care receivers may need to make sacrifices to accommodate one another’s needs.
 
So, how do caregivers balance their own needs with those of the person who depends on them? How do they manage day-to-day caregiving responsibilities in addition to the pressures of family, work and other obligations? Here are a few tips from resilient caregivers:

  • Give yourself unceasing credit for your efforts. Whether you are providing care for someone out of love or obligation, you are improving the person’s safety and well -being.

  • Set realistic expectations for yourself. Ask for assistance from family members, friends, health care professionals, and community agencies that serve dependent individuals

  • Seek support from family members, friends, counselors, spiritual advisers or other caregivers with whom you can share your woes, joys, problems and successes

  • Make a commitment to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being by replenishing your energy with relaxation, recreation and time for yourself

  • Connect with the person in your care by creating a peaceful space to reminisce, share experiences and be comforted

Author Richard Bach refers to serendipity by saying, “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.” This is the heart of resiliency for caregivers. Our goal is to rise to the challenge without denying the full spectrum of difficulties and delights, and to believe that our caregiving relationship has meaning – both for ourselves and the person receiving care. Whenever we involve ourselves in the life of someone who is vulnerable, we are on hallowed ground.