Many of us are Care givers for family members. We spend a lot of time and mental energy on this effort. We know that research shows caregivers are less healthy and have shorter lives than non care givers, but still we persevere in this, our self-appointed task.
As care givers, many of us feel alone in our efforts. Some are lucky enough to have siblings and/or other family members to help in the primary tasks of care giving. But too many of us are on our own.
In either case, the most important thing we have to remember (and do) is to take care of ourselves even while we are caring for our loved one. I know I was extremely stressed out when mom was ill and especially in her last illness while she was in the hospital. I ran from early in the morning till late in the day trying to care for her and go back and care for dad.
Even now, when mom is gone, I spend a lot of time and energy both in being physically there with dad and also taking care of his financial and other affairs. It is often hard to take time for my own needs because I am so focused on his.
However, each year when I get back from my vacation in the south, I have a list of appointments for my personal physician, other physicians and medical tests. It seems that as I get older, I have more doctors – one for each body part – and more routine tests to be done. Sometimes it seems so overwhelming I am tempted to just cancel them all and take more time for fun.
Then I remind myself how important it is to maintain my own health. I can’t take care of dad, or the rest of my family, if I neglect myself. I have been to the lab for blood tests, to the dentist for my twice yearly cleanings and more, and to other various doctors.
I wake up and think about how I am spending my time since I retired. This was not what I envisioned. No one says, “I am saving for my retirement so I can retire and spend my days sitting in medical waiting rooms!” Still, that is what I have been doing.
It dawned on me this spring that I have to put as great an effort into scheduling pure fun into my life. I signed up for some trips scheduled through our community clubhouse and another scheduled through the Senior Center. I will be doing more outside activities that I have in the past and I am looking forward to it.
Until now I was afraid to set up activities for myself for fear I would have to cancel if something happened to my parents. Now I have been caring for dad over 2 years since mom passed away and I realize that I can’t set aside my life until he no longer needs me. I was able to go south two years in a row for several months without any unforeseen events.
I can cancel a specific event if I need to, but in the meantime I will go out and have fun. 😉 Now that dad has become more active in his assisted living community, I feel more comfortable leaving him to their activities more days a week. I still visit him at least 3 days a week, but on the other days I can now take more time for myself.
So, in addition to all of the medical appointments I have in my schedule, I now have the other things that I had planned to do after retirement. I will ride a tour bus, go with friends and see things I have never seen before. I moved here almost 5 years ago. Now it is time to see the sights!