Balancing Emotional Safety: day 17 of 30 Day Family Caregiver Series
In our last post, we discussed ways to keep your family safe financially. There are certainly a lot of considerations for balancing their emotional safety; which we discuss in this post. This was a difficult aspect of caregiving for me personally because both of my parents were ‘hoarders’ and, my mom was capable, at times, of managing life and this meant spending. While this could easily be in the financial section as much as it is in the emotional section, there were things that they did because of emotional triggers. Here are some key issues for balancing your loved one’s emotional safety:
1. Recognize and appreciate they have feelings too. Do your best to get them to talk about their feelings.‘Click to Tweet!’ One thing I did to facilitate this was say things like, “ If I were you, I would feel sad and frustrated about xxxxxx. How does xxxx make you feel or Can you relate to this? “ 100% of the time my questions positioned as leading questions and statements about how I know they must be feeling was all they needed to start pouring out their emotions. Often times, I learned more about what was going on for them in the process.
2. Mail management. The sad reality of the situation when a parent’s health declines is they are no longer able to make appropriate decisions about what to buy or where to put the mail. Important mail could make its way to a bookshelf between, above or below books never to be found. Cancel unneeded mail, ensure mail is forwarded, follow up on all requests and keep documentation of said requests. I fielded all the mail. Prior to my mom’s illness and my dad’s accident, they subscribed to countless magazines and would receive mounds of catalogs. My parents were compulsive shoppers, but, I believe in part it was because it provided them a sense of purpose. An example of this compulsive behavior was when my dad purchased over $7,000 worth of learning CD’s over a two-year period from a catalog. (Prior to care giving) In the process of cleaning out their homes, we found three big boxes worth of these materials from the same company. In some cases, he purchased three and four sets of the same thing and 98 percent of these were unwrapped. Mind you, the CD’s weren’t found together. They were collectively in different places across two homes, a storage unit, and their garage. Amanda cataloged everything and sent it all back with a nice cover letter my mom drafted. The company CEO sent a check to us with a letter indicating that while they honor their 100 percent refund policy with no time limits, we were not allowed to ever order from them again. We were fine with this. To this day, we still receive their catalogs!
3. Self- Care. We talk about self-care for the caregiver, yet, self-care for the care receiver is important too. ‘Click to Tweet!’ I made sure my mom periodically had her hair done and nails manicured. This helped her feel special. We got my dad his first and last pedicure. I had a friend who does massage come to the house and give my dad a massage. He really, really appreciated that and it was especially healing for his body and soul.
4. Boundaries and conditions. It is important to establish what your conditions are as a caregiver and what you will and won’t accept; ahead of time, if at all possible. Recognizing what you have control over versus having influence over is important.’Click to Tweet!‘ Further, ensuring you agree on all conditions is imperative for everyone’s well-being and prevents arguments down the road.
5. Expressions of support and love. We supported each other in countless ways through our hugs, talks, listening and being a sounding board, general support, compassion and gratitude. My parents weren’t very affectionate nor did they make it a practice to say “I love you” as I grew up. I knew they loved me. They just didn’t say it much. Can you relate to a situation in childhood that was a defining moment or building of moments where you said to yourself when you had a family, you were going to always X or never Y? I’m sure we’ve all had these defining moments. Somewhere along the way, verbal expressions of love became something I was going to do differently when I had kids. Having us all in this cozy home and integrating our two very different ways of operating and being proved challenging at times. It required love, patience, acceptance and faith.
6. Meet them where they are at. Let them preserve their dignity and demonstrate respect by letting them (safely of course) work through issues of doing things beyond their limitations. This, of course, doesn’t mean to risk their safety but if there is a way to balance the two, do it. Be patient and kind. When my dad got frustrated, I reminded him that he’s been through a lot and healing takes time. I provided comfort where I could and that helped immensely.
7. Express gratitude. As a family, we would go around the room periodically and say something we were grateful for about each other. This often helped break difficult moods and lifted everyone’s spirits.
zYour turn: Which of these tips resonates with you the most? Are there other tips you would include? Please comment below:
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The Top Three Mistakes Most Family Caregivers Make When It Comes to Keeping Family Safe (and How To Avoid Them)
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