Care Giver Stress
There are many sources of stress for the care giver. One that can be particularly confusing is that of boundaries in caring. When personal relationships and illness are involved the issue of boundaries can be very confusing even if you are well aware of what boundaries are and even good at them in other circumstances. I know from my experience with my parents that it took me some time to understand the difference between enabling and healthy care giving. Once I “got it” things went a lot smoother.
Illness often exacerbates imbalances that are already present in families/groups. Illness can be used as a means of control and manipulation. Without consciousness of these dynamics the care giver can easily end up in a state of burn out.
One of the hardest things about setting limits and boundaries in illness is the awareness of the great need of the dependent “other”. I know I often felt that their needs much more important than mine because they were old and/or sick. However, it turns out that if you consistently overlook your own needs then you can end up so exhausted that you are not effective, thinking clearly enough to make good decisions and may have a backlog of resentment that affects your relationships and health.
Having some questions that help to set the foundation for healthy interactions and self care is a big help.
Care Giver Guidelines
When we had our radio show Caregiver Corner on BlogTalk Radio we interviewed Lori LaBey, author of of Alzheimers Speaks. She suggested the following questions as guidelines to help caregivers differentiate between healthy care-giving and enabling.
1. Do I want to do __________ for this person?
2. Am I motivated by love, fear or guilt?
3. Am I doing what I am doing because it is expected of me?
4. Is it what I want to give of myself?
5. Does this feel right to me?
6. Am I putting more effort into this than they are?
7. Will doing this make me feel good and why?
These are good questions for the care giver but they can also apply to other relationships. The answers to the questions can be a start to be clearer about relationship dynamics and help bring about creative solutions that actually improve things for everybody not just the care giver!