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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published December 30 2011

Bradley Bursack: Looking for balance in the New Year

Dear Readers: When caring for vulnerable people, we often find it difficult to know what the proper balance is between other-care and self-care.

While I’m not a fan of “New Year’s Resolutions,” I am offering some suggestions that maybe can help you if you are struggling to balance your needs with the needs of your care receiver.

<•> Unearned guilt on the part of caregivers can be one of our biggest problems. We can’t do everything perfectly. Thinking we should places our mental and even physical health at huge risk.

<•> No one can guess the needs of another person perfectly. Nor can we fix the disease or aging difficulties that the person must cope with. We can’t make them younger. We can’t make them well. Our best efforts can’t fix everyone’s problems, so let’s learn to cut ourselves some slack.

<•> Remember the old adage that all work and no play makes one, well, dull? Try to have some fun. That may mean hiring someone to care for your loved one. And by doing so you may find that both you and your loved one are better off after you’ve had a break. Anything counts as fun, as long as it’s something you enjoy.

<•> Learn to say “no” to requests both inside and outside of caregiving. There are countless organizations that are worthy of our help. There are family members who would love to have us do just a little more. Our employer may be very happy to have us work a few more hours.

But can we?

Think through every request and only say “yes” to those you truly can fulfill while still preserving your own health and wellbeing.

<•> Exhaustion is a symptom that we are doing too much. Trust yourself to get outside help before you hit an extreme low point. Ask for help from family members, religious organizations, social services, care agencies or others. In-home care agencies can be fantastic, because they are so flexible. They cost money, but you getting sick could cost much more.

<•> Seek professional help if you are depressed for any length of time. It’s important to see a professional if there’s even a chance you are clinically depressed.

Pick and choose among these suggestions, or ignore them altogether, unless they could truly make your life more fulfilling. Happiness is unique to individuals. Whether you would be happy with more solitude or more socializing, try to make whatever change suits you.

The main point is that you deserve balance in your life, and some contentment. Only you can decide how best to accomplish that. Next year won’t be perfect, as life itself is imperfect. But with some thought, the new year could put you several steps ahead of last year.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.