A Space of One’s Own – for Caregivers
A Space of One’s Own – Finding and Maintaining Your Personal Space While Caregiving
Author: Tamar Meisel, PMC
Caregiving often becomes all-consuming. It has a way of taking over your life, leaving its signs everywhere.
The kitchen counter becomes a make-shift medicine cabinet, medical supplies find their way into drawers and medical reading material clutters the coffee table. Soon, the relatively neat home you aspired to becomes a memory. Combine that with the stress of taking care of a loved one and the thought of ‘personal space’ becomes a thing of the past.
While taking some ‘me time’ and finding a place to call your own are extremely important, caregivers often feel guilty at the prospect. That being said, carving out some time and space for yourself is not just something you should do; it’s something you have to do. In the work world, most of us have Saturday and/or Sunday off, caregivers have no time off. No one can do something 24/7 and have it be healthy. You have to take time for yourself, even if it is 10 minutes to do your own interests, catch up with friends or read the newspaper. That time is crucial.
So how do you carve out that time and space? Caregivers need to schedule their ‘me time’. Why? Because what we put in our calendar is usually important to us – it becomes a priority. This time could be when you know your loved one is taken care of: taking a daily nap, asleep at night or at a weekly appointment when your presence isn’t necessary.
Creating space as well as finding some time to yourself – time to re-charge yourself. The place could be a separate room in the home, a favorite chair, It doesn’t matter whether you live in a large house or a small apartment – this area is where you can relax, unwind and revel in whatever brings you joy. You can have a photo album with pictures of friends or your favorite place to visit. You might also want to dress up the area with decorative pillows and/or comfortable throw blankets in your favorite colors and textures. Using scented candles are another way to loosen up, along with flowers and plants which will brighten up any space and improve your mood. Creating the time and space that’s your own will help you take better care of yourself then you can take better care of your loved one.
Years ago, I volunteered for an organization called “mother to mother”. This organization places women whose children are not so young with women who just gave birth. The purpose is to be there for them – if they need someone to talk to or to help them with simple tasks. I was placed with a woman who had just given birth to a wonderful healthy boy. This woman had another son in nursery school. Her partner worked a nine-to-five job. Her parents were in the area so they could help out whenever necessary. I couldn’t really imagine how I would be of value. Then she asked me what she wanted. She wanted to take a bath. A quiet bath. Knowing that if her child were to awaken, he would be cared for. Knowing that no one would call her from another room. This weekly ½ hour gave her piece of mind. I realized that it is something we all need! Most of us feel guilty asking for peace of mind and for ½ hour of a pampering bath. Whatever it is that regenerates you, take the time for it – find the place for it.
Remember – Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then you can help others.