When Life as a Caregiver Feels Like Having No Life at All

“How’s life as a caregiver?” a friend asks Frieda, a mother of three who is also taking care of her own father who has dementia. Frieda, in an outburst of emotion, lamented how she had to quit work to focus on family life, and to care for her dad who is transitioning to an advanced Alzheimer’s disease stage.

According to Frieda, while managing a home with three kids is already taxing in itself, meeting the needs of an ailing elderly parent at the same time robs her of the life that she dreamt about for herself. There’s hardly any more ”me” time, let alone restful sleep.

“Being a Caregiver feels like I have no life at all!” is all that Frieda could tell her friend.

Many caregivers share Frieda’s sentiments. Even the toughest caregivers will have these moments. If you are one of them, you might be thinking of ways on how to improve your current situation. While it is not always easy, having a quality life as a caregiver is possible.

Here are some tips which might help you loosen up.

1. Have a good self-talk.

o Give yourself credit, not blame or guilt. Congratulate yourself for a job well done and then reward yourself with simple things.
o Ask yourself what you like to do best in the shortest possible time? Is it perhaps reading a book? Determine the best time to do this whether daily, every other day or on a weekly basis, and then do it, so that you don’t find yourself lacking these things.

2. Educate yourself.

o This is perhaps the most practical way of improving one’s life as a caregiver. Knowing and understanding the illness of the person cared for is the first step in finding solutions and clarifying expectations.

3. Seek support that targets both the person cared for and the yourself.

o Research shows that strategies that help both the caregiver and the care recipient, such as learning how to manage medical and functional limitations of the person cared for, improves the caregiver's quality of life.

4. Develop healthy coping strategies.

o Rather than reacting negatively to a problem or dwelling on past mistakes, focus on creating and finding solutions to problems to avoid similar difficulties in the future.

o When you find it hard to take some time off from your busy schedule because you feel ”guilty” for not doing something ”worthwhile” of your time, learn how to use temporary selective indifference for ”me” time. Temporary selective indifference is taking pleasure and not feeling guilty when caring for yourself.

o Connect, don’t just care. Being too focused on the completion of tasks makes daily life a monotonous routine. Get to know the person you care for in a more meaningful way. Appreciate the positives and dwell on them, however few of them you find. Also, connect with people other than the patient.

o Know the resources available to make your life easier, like respite care. Respite care enables the caregiver to take a break from caregiver tasks by having someone or a facility temporarily take the responsibilities of caring from them. Use the break time to recharge or ”reset” yourself.

Finally, when you feel like there’s no life as a caregiver, the best that you can do is find a deeper meaning and a sense of purpose in your job. This way of thinking addresses the subjective feeling that you do not have a quality life. Treat it like it is a calling with a worthy cause rather than just a job you have no choice of doing. Actively seek out valuable lessons and look at being a caregiver as an opportunity to appreciate human life as a whole.