Caregiving is difficult. But when you add in trying to perform the duties required from hundreds of miles away, the struggle is amplified. You start to question everything.
Am I visiting enough?
Am I doing enough?
Even your parents can contribute to these feelings, sometimes unknowingly, by complaining or sounding pitiful on the phone. “Oh, you know me, I’ll be just fine.”
Even in the best of circumstances, caregiving is accompanied by a sense of guilt. But when you’re not present for all that is required on a daily basis, these feelings quickly escalate. However, it is important to understand that it’s okay to have these feelings. It’s how you address them that impacts your experience as a caregiver.
Recognize that feelings of guilt are a normal part of the process. Allow yourself to acknowledge these emotions to better process them and let them go. No matter how much you can do, there will always be things you can’t. If you become aware of the differences, it can allow you to find ways of getting what has to be done completed.
There are some things that you may prefer to do. There are other tasks that others can easily perform. Start differentiating between the two and release the things you can. If you can’t be there for every doctor appointment, an in-home caregiver can be there to shuttle them between facilities and even take copious notes to ensure you understand the details.
Are you using technology effectively? With today’s smart technology, you can be there even when you physically cannot. Call in and discuss issues when you can. Touch base before and after medical appointments to ensure you’re kept in the loop. By touching base with your loved ones a little here and there, it can ensure you stay on top of the most important issues without having to stockpile the items you talk about when you visit.
Caregiving can also drive wedges between siblings and other family members. Ever get the feeling that someone in the family isn’t pulling their weight? Whoever the primary caregiver is, support them. Be there to listen and offer words of encouragement. Offer help whenever you can. Don’t let guilt keep you away. You still have lots of things to offer.
When we fall into a caregiving role, we often take on many of the chores because it’s easier. Resist the urge to take over things your loved one can still do for themselves. Sure, it might take two or three times longer to let them muddle through. But a few “I did it!” revelations might just give your loved one what she needs to take on even more responsibility. Let them have a life. Encourage them to do what they can. Knowing they’re happy and content can help eliminate some of your guilt.
Have Healthy Boundaries
As much as your lives are now becoming entwined, it’s equally important to keep up with life on your own. Don’t engage them when they question your motives. Don’t apologize for doing things without them. Learn to steer conversations to neutral topics. Establish what you can and can’t do, then stick with your plan. You’ll be a much better caregiver if you do things for yourself too.