Part 1: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Setting Boundaries in Caregiving
Caregiving for a family member, friend, or neighbor can be rewarding, but with it comes a wide range of emotions. On any given day, a caregiver may feel joy, hope, love, anger, fear, frustration, or resentment; the list goes on. What is important is learning how to own emotions, and how to balance them. This can be done is through setting healthy boundaries.
Many caregivers experience feelings of being overwhelmed, frustrated, or guilty. They wonder if what they are doing is enough, how they could be providing more care, or why others aren’t helping more. This is where caregiver burnout can slowly start to creep in. Taking a step back and reflecting on the current situation can be a helpful place to start. What would an ideal caregiving situation be? How do I make that happen?
Often as caregivers we don’t pause to evaluate where our caregiving journey has taken us. We may have started out doing a few things like picking up prescriptions, dropping of a meal once a week, or stopping by to check in, but somewhere along the way we started providing transportation to and from medical appointments, spending countless hours in doctors’ offices, becoming a financial manager, a social planner, a home organizer, and countless other tasks. How did this happen? Are there others helping, or providing support? Is this how I imagined my caregiving journey? Now that we’ve come this far, how can I change it? If I don’t do it, who will? All of these are common questions caregivers ask themselves.
Taking time to reflect can be helpful in setting boundaries. Making a list of all the tasks a caregiver is helping with is a good place to start. From that list, indicate which items you are comfortable doing, which are a little uncomfortable, and then the items that are most challenging for you. This serves as a guide to where boundary setting can begin, and perhaps identify the areas where you should ask for help. It’s important to remember you have the right to say no, and to ask for help.
Although it is not always clear when to set boundaries, it is important to trust your instincts. Caregivers need to have confidence that we know when we are feeling overwhelmed and need additional support. This may come in the form of asking others (friends, family, or other professionals) to step in and help, letting others know that we cannot take on any more responsibility, or perhaps giving ourselves a timeout or break for a period of time. It is of utmost importance that caregivers care for themselves first. It would be nearly impossible for us to provide good, positive, supportive care if we ourselves are unwell. Remembering that caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint, is of utmost importance. Without setting healthy boundaries and caring for ourselves, we may not be able to be the amazing caregivers we set out to be.
Article submitted by: Lisa Brown, MSW, LISW. www.eldercarepartners.org