Last update: June 29, 2015
A parent, our partner or even our children. Life is not always easy, and you may have found yourself forced to take care of an elderly person or a loved one who has been disabled by an illness. An event of this type must be faced with great strength, courage and dedication… In addition to sincere affection for the patient.
Looking after someone is a timeless job that requires all of our concentration. In most cases, it doesn't just challenge us physically: on the contrary, emotional suffering can become our companion every day, a painful burden to deal with every morning. You devote all your energy to caring for that person, but… Who cares for you?
When we are looking after someone, the risk is to lose sight of ourselves. How can we take care of ourselves if the person we care for needs it most? We repeat to ourselves that we are the pillar on which everything is based: the house, the family, the person we look after… How could we allow ourselves time to rest, then? Impossible! This level of responsibility, however, does us no good, and there are some clues that we can see as evidence of this.
Here are a few:
- Sleep disorders
- Lack of energy, chronic fatigue
- Social isolation
- Frequent use of medicines, sedatives, analgesics, etc.
- Palpitations and anxiety attacks
- Small memory problems
- Changes in appetite: excessive desire or loss of appetite
- Changes in mood: sudden bouts of anger, crying fits, etc.
- Difficulty in understanding that we are not well, tendency to diminish one's tiredness or pain in order to focus only on the patient we are taking care of.
How can we tell if we are taking care of ourselves?
We know that you are essential for the person you are looking after. And also that they need you in the house, that many other people depend on you. But… And you? How are you? Who takes care of you? Do you listen to others when they tell you that you are looking bad and that you should rest? Furthermore, you must not only listen to others, but also yourself, your body and your emotions.
It is of fundamental importance that those who care for a sick person pay attention to the following aspects:
1. Are you getting enough sleep?
We need restful sleep to recover energy, avoid accidents, be less irritable, etc. Lack of sleep can turn into a chronic illness, remember that. The emotional tension, in fact, can increase to the point that we will no longer even be able to look after our loved one as we should.
2. Do you have social relationships? Are you maintaining your hobbies and interests?
Sometimes, our commitments to the addicted person distance us from our friends, and even from other family members. We need to reflect on this situation, as it could cause us various problems, both physical and psychological. Avoid straying too far from those around you and try, as far as possible, to maintain the same habits you had before. Maybe go for a coffee with friends? Going out one night a week? Take one day off a week? Do not even lose your interests and passions: choose the ones that are easier to maintain despite the situation you are in now, we are sure there are some that you can carry on.
3. Can you find moments to dedicate to yourself?
We know that looking after someone is a commitment that requires your efforts almost 24 hours a day. But no one is able to do it without ever pulling the plug. It is vitally important to establish moments of rest, even without having to leave the house or leave your loved one alone. Sure there are ways or simple options that will allow you to relax, breathe and think about yourself for a moment. Just a few minutes. It's worth trying and keeping these breaks every day.
Thinking about yourself is also essential for the good of the person you love, that fragile and dependent person. Remember that you too need love and dedication.