We've all heard it - most of us probably since we were young. The truth is, you just cannot imagine how difficult being a caregiver is, unless you have done it yourself.
But after spending years as a primary caregiver for my son, navigating through countless medical appointments, I've learned it's a life lesson that many forsake or are reluctant to acknowledge due to their own fears.
Our own sense of mortality or the fear of a similar fate for our loved ones, whatever the basis, makes it simply easier to turn away or dismiss.
As a caregiver, you know your loved one better than anyone else. In the process, however, you can lose yourself amidst the chaos that sometimes consumes everything in its path. Neglecting your own spiritual, physical and emotional well-being, you give all.
Caregiving takes time - a lot of it. Caregiving also takes an emotional toll.
The problem is, when you are inside the bubble, often you are the last to recognize it.
In your selfless role, you are susceptible to depression, illness and both mental and physical exhaustion. Any one of these conditions will easily interfere with your ability to effectively render care.
You must give yourself a mental break once in a while. Time to laugh. Time for yourself. Time to experience something less intense, if only for a bit perhaps.
What does that look like?
Take yourself to a movie. Take a walk. Take a yoga class. Go to dinner with a friend. Laugh.
I would wager your loved one wants the same for you.
Holding ourselves accountable for the health, improvement and superhuman care of our loved is not only unrealistic, it is self-defeating. Recognizing your presence, guardianship and lifetime of shared memories and love are truly the act of kindness most regarded.
Should you find yourself in this spiral, recognize the need to remember your role as a spouse, son, daughter, mother, father. For it's these relationships that will recharge you and reinforce your self-worth in the face of so many life challenges.
Scott Wellinger is the co-owner of Senior Helpers in the Lowcountry. swellinger@ seniorhelpers.com