You Don't Have to Lose Yourself to Your Loved One's Care
It is so easy to lose yourself in caring for your loved one. Your identity as a caregiver consumes all other aspects of your identity. In striving to attend to your loved one’s needs, you often forget to tend to your own. Many times, caregivers are forced to quit their jobs, decline social invitations, move closer to their loved ones, and otherwise put their lives on hold indefinitely.
I personally struggled with many of these things when I was helping care for my mom with Alzheimer’s. I quit my full-time job to become a caregiver for my mom. I sacrificed spending time with my friends. I put off working toward my goals. My life was on hold indefinitely. As a result, I lost myself to my mom’s Alzheimer’s. I had no job, no friends, and no life. When my mom passed, I was forced to face that reality and begin the process of finding myself again.
Tips for creating balance
I often ask myself what I could have done differently to create more balance in my life when my mom was still living. Although it was important to me to be there for her as much as possible, I gave up many parts of my life unnecessarily. If you are currently struggling with this, here are a few tips to create more balance in your life.
Keep a piece of your life that is just for you
What is something that you always enjoyed doing before your loved one got sick? It could be a sport or hobby, a television show, or podcast. Maybe you always enjoyed running or reading a celebrity gossip magazine. Whatever it is, no matter how small, keep a piece of your life that is just for you. Spend some time each day doing something that makes you feel like you.
Maintain friendships with people outside of your Alzheimer’s circle
Do you find yourself feeling resentful toward your friends who aren’t dealing with Alzheimer’s? Do you feel like you’re beginning to isolate yourself from these friends because they just don’t get it? I did, too, and I really wish I didn’t. You should try to have one or two friends in your life who you don’t talk to about Alzheimer’s. Talk to them about literally anything else. Let them be your escape from Alzheimer’s. Let them bring out your pre-Alzheimer’s self. They will remind you of who you are when you have forgotten.
Be in the moment you are in
When you are with your loved one, put your phone down, engage them, and be fully present with them. When you are on a beach with your significant other or out to dinner with your best friend, be on that beach or in that restaurant. Try not to let feelings of guilt and grief ruin those moments for you. You are allowed to enjoy your own life even though your loved one is living with Alzheimer’s. Making sure you are fully present when you are with your loved one can help alleviate feelings of guilt when you are not with them. When you are not with your loved one, make the most out of your time and try to enjoy yourself so being away from them is actually worth it. Be where you are, wholly and fully.
It is so easy to lose yourself to your loved one’s Alzheimer’s. Just remember you are allowed to enjoy your own life. And more than that, you deserve it.
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