People are fond of talking about work-life balance. Basically what this phrase means is that one’s life should not be all work and there must be time allocated for self, family, friends and recreation and hobby, so that there is a good balance in one’s life.
For people who are looking after elderly loved ones at home (whom we call “family caregivers”), we have a similar phrase – it’s called life-life balance.
Many of the family caregivers we meet have pretty much completely given their lives to looking after their elder ones, usually their parents. We know a Doctor who has given up practice to look after her mother, a man who has taken long leave from his government job (on loss of pay) to look after his ailing and aged father, a lady looking after her husband who has got Alzheimer’s and her mother-in-law who is really old, the list goes on…
What is common to all these people is that they no longer seem to have a life of their own. Their day (and night) revolves around the people they are caring for and everything they do is rearranged to ensure that the routine for these people is not upset. This kind of life can be extremely stressful and many of them are depressed, and have lost interest in all the things that gave their life a good balance.
If you are family caregiver, falling into such a rut is very easy, and before you know it, you life would have become completely uni-dimensional. To avoid getting caught do the following:
1. List down things that you love doing. This could include work, hobbies, general activities, fitness routines, friends, etc.
2. Build a support structure that will let you provide time for most of these activities. Have helpers come in to relieve you, talk to your friends, relatives, siblings to give you regular breaks – any which way, ensure you always have some “me” time.
3. Don’t let the condition of those under your care get to you. More importantly don’t feel guilty. Most family caregivers have not received a single day’s formal training in looking after the elderly and consequently most feel inadequate and ill-equipped to handle the different situations that arise. When you are feeling that way, tell yourself you are providing the best support that you possibly can.
4. Get proper rest. Getting up 3-5 times every night can be extremely enervating. Even if you believe that you are used to it, it can still impair your judgement considerably. So do not compromise on the rest and sleep that you need. Find ways to avoid having to get up in the night. Diapers can help a lot here or have a night nurse so you can be fresh to face each new day.
5. Remember, you are duty bound to look after yourself as well as your loved ones. Besides, only when you are fit can you do a good job of providing support to the cared ones.
Life-Life balance is all about making sure you don’t short-change yourself. Get up and go get a life!
This is an article in the series – “The Elephant in the Room”.
The elephant in the room” (TEITR) series is meant to highlight many facts and realities about the life of senior citizens in India that most of us tend to ignore/avoid.