From The Family Caregiver Newsletter
The Family Caregiver
Note to Self
Caregivers take a seat and write a Note to Self. Write down what care you are providing for your family member. Yes, list the tasks, appointments, and other obligations necessary for their well-being. The note may also be a reflection, in black and white, of the changes it has brought to your life, your story as a caregiver, or perhaps the skills you have learned. You may also include what you are getting out of providing care and what is it is costing you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
It may have a place for your feelings about what you’ve doing, such as your impatience, sorrow or grief for whom you are losing. Maybe it is just a list of tasks and duties. Or may include experiences like the moments of connection when they smile at you when they wake from a nap.
Having writer’s block. Here is some help:
The note to self starts with a declaration, I am (state your name). Great start. The page is no longer blank, and begs for more. But my guard is up and my get-through-the-day-of-caregiving leaves my frontal lobe blank and amygdala detecting a threat. Take 2 deep breaths - in deeply and out slowly. Pause. A word comes through my pencil, it is small, faint and reads . . . anger - Oops. Not sure I wanted to start there – oh well, let it flow.
Angry, yes. I quit my job to provide 60 hours of care, but it is for my mom! Or anger because our best retirement years were too few and ended abruptly, when caregiving began.
How honest do I want to be? Do I dare write the words forgiveness, kindness and compassion after I just finished my list of what makes me angry?
Do I want to afford myself forgiveness for speaking sharply? How many ways can I say I am forgiven: for what I did not know, for what I could not see and for what I could not mentally or physically endure? And forgive for what was left unsaid between us, before they fell silent.
How do I express my feelings about my siblings, children, and friends who could not help for all the reasons real and which I imagine?
Somewhere in the note, feel free to include your many roles which may include, care partner, guide, cook, nurse’s aide, driver, night watchman, parent, bodyguard, host, roommate, housemate, B&B proprietor.
Not to overwhelm you, but fair warning: there is a second note to write. It is a letter to you from the family member for whom you are caring. The second letter is for another day and will likely be easier once you have written your Note to Self.
John McBride, MA is the supervisor for the Family Caregiver Support Program at the Lewis-Mason-Thurston Area Agency on Aging. Call (360) 664-2168 or go on-line (www.lmtaaa.org) for more information about how our program can help unpaid family caregivers.