Back a few months ago when my parents were visiting for Christmas break, we broke into one of our typically deep dinner-prep conversations that usually span topics like life philosophy, religion, love, politics, and basketball. Basically, any of those topics that you were always told to steer away from – that’s where we go, immediately. Over Thanksgiving when my family first met Danny, one of the first group discussions we got into was answering my aunt’s question: “What’s your vice?”. Not that we’ve ever cared about taking turns, but this time it was definitely mine – as we sat around, glasses of wine and beer in hand, I turned to them and whimsically wondered “When did you first realize that you were an adult?” After some bemused chuckles in the room, we finally got to some answers that ranged from when they paid off their first car loan to when they got the keys for their first apartment. Up to the end of last year, I can’t say that I felt much like an adult in any way, shape or form but that’s all been flipped on it’s head in the last few months.
One of the biggest psychological issues that we all deal with as we grow up is the idea of mind-body duality: I am a conscious entity, and I’m being expressed through a separate physical body. Our entire life feels like a reconciliation of these two ideas as we learn to live with both in perpetual symbiosis. As we age past midlife, the crux of our life’s parabolic function, the more our lives revert back to mirroring infancy and the older we get the more the mind body duality tends to re-separate, and their relationship seems to be in revolt: My consciousness feels fine, while my body is anything but. It’s one thing to recognize this in ourselves, but quite another entirely when it’s happening to a parent, when you have to take care of your care takers
Let’s face it, we’ve been the ones that have had to be cared for…up until now. But somewhere along the way to the rest of our lives, we just had to grow up. We got older, we evolved, we matured into ourselves and we started figuring out how to be adults. Child, sister, brother, teenager, adult, wife, husband, mother, father, grandparent…of all the roles that we either briefly or permanently assume over the course of our lives, the most inevitable role – the one that we’re least prepared for – is the part of care taker. All egos included in the scenario are off kilter – more often than not, our parents and peers don’t want to accept care from their children. We’re the people they looked after with gleeful and conscious delight for our whole lives, they cleaned our scraped knees and wiped away our tears….and now, we’re supposed to be their strength? In short, yes.
Self Care + Proper Proper Prioritization
Maslow had his hierarchy of needs, and you do, too. While we stress about taking care of those we love, we often forget to take care of our number one – ourselves, so let’s talk about you and how to best take care of yourself in these difficult times. In order to maintain any semblance of normalcy and or sanity, you’ll want to keep some semblance of your old schedule, at the bare bones minimum you’ll want to focus on maintaining a comfortable routine.When it comes to taking care of loved ones, chances are you’re going to have to rearrange the order of parts your pyramid of priorities.
Mind, Body and Soul
Your well being and the well being of those your caring for now catapult to the top of your list, and a lot of things will fall to the wayside – for now, it’s okay to let it. Your social circle and the social circle of those that you’re helping need to be aware of what you’re going through so they can figure out the best way to be supportive of what you’re experiencing. It’s not the most fun, but be prepared to put-off your less permanent plans while you get some necessary nesting in.
Beyond your metal health and emotional health, your physical health is equally important. Make sure you’re maintaining your daily meals and getting in the necessary calories, because you can’t take care of those you love if you’re not taking care of yourself. If you can make it to the gym, go ham – if you can’t, don’t stress! Try your luck with a local yoga studio, or get up, get out and go for walk around the neighborhood.
The Value of a Support System
Life can be tricky, but having a good support system makes it a hell of a lot easier for everyone. We’re not just talking about those you’re taking care of, but you. Be honest with yourself on what you need, and between your pride and your ego: don’t be afraid to ask. You have people in your life that love you to the moon and back, and would want to be there for you any way they can – let them. Whether its a quick phone call at lunch, an impromptu dinner date or a little text that just says they’re thinking of you, having people in your life that you can depend on to love you when you need it is everything.
With any health issue, comes pounds and pounds of paperwork to be sorted. Some of it can be tossed – though, I emphatically believe that you shred personal information instead. My recommendation is to keep a detailed medical diary – especially if there are multiple medications to deal with. Create a table with pertinent information, wound changes, medical dosages, etc and be sure to input any changes to their status in the diary. Beyond the health issues at hand, there are a lot of non-medical financial numbers and paperwork to handle when you’re in assist mode, so make sure you stay on top of it with some organizational help. Draw up a bill calendar and make sure they’re on auto-pay to reduce stress of late payments and shut off fees.
Taking care of the people that have always taken care of you can seem like a daunting task, but know you are beautiful in your selfless sacrifice, in your vulnerability, and in your depth. Do you have any pieces of advice for those out there in care taker mode? Let me know in the comments below.
Love and light to all of you.