Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Care-giving 101: Boomers Beware

What an unfortunate end to a terrific week at the lake, with all our kids and grandsons, celebrating my husband's birthday. During one final swim, he slipped on the dock, had to have surgery on a fracture through the knee joint and is now only 10 days into an 8-12 week stint of no weight bearing. And yes, living in a 2nd floor walk-up, we're both counting the days!

When we're busy with our lives and moving along as usual we tend to feel bad for the injured and their caretakers but don’t really give much thought to the challenges they're facing. As with so many other circumstances, it's often through experience that we really know how it feels - and then can access a depth of compassion.

So what's it like for an active, strong willed risk taker to be rendered helpless and in the hands of the woman he's been married to for 45 years? Well, it's a new role for both of us and we're trying to learn as we go. You can't really be prepared for the unexpected but, as we age, we're all vulnerable. So here are some pointers about what we've been doing to make our way through this rough period:

The first days can be the hardest. We take so much for granted. When your partner is incapacitated, the physical and emotional challenges can't help but have a huge impact. And with a reversal of roles, while one may feel vulnerable and upset, the other's emotions can fluctuate from fear to frustration. Yet eventually both can experience a deep sense of support and renewed strength as you draw on the coping strengths that helped you manage difficult times in the past.

What you're feeling is normal. The emotions that surface can affect how you see yourselves, even on a temporary basis. Let the anger, exhaustion, resentment or guilt wash over you but don't give in to them. Try to be hopeful as you adjust to the new reality. You'll take better care of your emotional self if you don't dwell on the negatives and begin to accept that this too will pass.

Care for the care-giver. Look on the bright side of a difficult situation as you balance caring for your partner and taking care of your own needs. Make time for yourself - take a long walk or yoga class, go back to volunteer work or grandbaby sitting, enjoy lunch or a movie with a friend. Recognize what you can manage and that you don't have to do it all alone – and remember that it's OK to ask for help.

If your family has been through this, please share your ideas by clicking on 'Comments' below. And log on again Wednesday when we'll be STILL be talking about the cared for and the care-giver.

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