At the moment, I seem to know a number of people in the caregiving role and one area where people have considerable difficulty is setting limits. Whether it’s a spouse, child, friend, parent or a close friend, understanding limits and boundaries is important for both you and the person that needs the help.
Things to consider:
• Understand from the get go that what they think they need can be completely different from your take on the situation. Consequently, as long as they are cognitively able to make decisions, it’s their choice no matter the outcome. It’s important to accept that people make decisions and they need to deal with the consequences.
• Get clear with yourself as early as possible about why you are taking on the responsibility of caregiver. Ask yourself the following question:
- Do they want me to be the caregiver?
- Is this something I want to do or do I feel obligated to do it?
- Are there other family and friends that can and should be doing this?
- What finances are available?
- How much time can I dedicate to being a caregiver without negatively impacting personal well being, family and job?
- Is my self worth tied up in this? In another words, if I do this, I’m a good person.
- Is caregiving going to be a trigger for remembering past ills between yourself and the individual in need of care?
- What aspects of the caregiving responsibility do I think I can handle and what am I not comfortable with?
- Is no one else willing to step to the plate to do it, so I feel responsible?
It’s very important that the individual is comfortable with you as their caregiver. At the same token, you need to be vested in the process because it is something you want and can do without negative consequences. Just being an adult child, sibling or spouse doesn’t necessarily make you the right person to take on the primary role of caregiver. You might be better suited for arranging for personal care attendants, using advocates etc. and/or being supportive of the primary caregiver.
One very important role, that is often overlooked, is the person who can coordinate the responses of family, friends and neighbors. It is amazing how many people are willing to lend a hand, and truly “many hands make light work.” Money is often tight, so being able to organize a good volunteer support team can lessen the burden significantly. If your talents are best suited for being the administrator of a free Lotsa Helping Hands website, which can organize volunteers to bring meals, provide rides, do chore services-shopping, laundry, cleaning, etc., your contribution will be enormous.
• “No” is a very important and realistic response. In the course of your relationship with this person, chances are good they said “no” more than once to you. They had their reasons then and you have valid reasons now. When appropriate, “just say ‘No.”
On the subject of ‘No,” sometimes people in need will reject your offer of help. If they tend to go to others for assistance, take this as a sign they’ve made a choice and let it be. Even if you think the caregiver they selected isn’t doing a good job, as long as they are cognitively able, they have the right and responsibility to pick and choose. If you believe the situation is dangerous, and the person may not be competent, you can call the police asking for a “welfare visit,” and/or contact adult protective services.
• When people are sick or old, it can quickly become all about them, resulting in their being extremely demanding. You are not their servant, so set boundaries and stick to them. The more you allow them to bully you into doing something you don’t want to do, the more they’ll do it.
• Caregiving can be an emotional minefield. You can only be responsible for your own emotions, so take charge of them. Try not to fall into old destructive patterns with family and friends.
• Keep an open dialogue going with all those involved. Be clear about your limits and discuss what others are dealing with. Do what you can, when you can for as long as you can. Not everyone is suited to the same task and that’s okay.
• Remember, your best is more than good enough.
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