Thinking of Caregiving as an Opportunity for Personal Growth, Not a Burden
No matter the path our lives take us, we all eventually find ourselves having to deal with aging; it’s inevitable. This week’s guest, Amy Goyer, discussed the subject of caregiving from a refreshing perspective, offering insight on how aging can be a rewarding opportunity for generational bonding.
Goyer, AARP’s Home & Family expert, has firsthand experience as caregiver – she takes care of her dad, who has Alzheimer’s. However, Goyer insists that he still takes care of her as well – because he’s still her dad. Neither age nor disease will ever change that. Goyer shared how it’s crucial to understand that even when your parents are aging and perhaps beginning to need assistance in different areas of their lives, they are still owed respect and compassion. That’s why making comparisons to how a baby or young child needs taking care of versus the way an aging parent needs taking care of is something that has never sat well with her. Needing assistance is no reason to infantilize or dismiss the relationship cultivated up until that point. Rather, it’s an opportunity for new growth. She urged that you just have to take on an attitude of compassion.
But even with an attitude of compassion, caregivers cannot forget to take care of themselves. Self-care is so crucial, and one of the first things to be forgotten, Goyer insisted. We discussed the importance of not only getting enough sleep so that you can cope, but also eating proper nutrients so that you are energized, and recognizing the role support can play for the caregiver.
The AARP website offers resources for those caregivers looking for support of their own. Specifically, if you go to the Caregiving Resource Center, you’ll find a lot of information as well as online or in-person support options. At eldercare.gov, you can find local Area Agencies on Aging for additional in-person support. And a support group might not fit the needs of each individual – some caregivers may just look for that one friend who they can call in the middle of the night when they need reassurance. It’s important to have that something or someone to support you, so that you aren’t feeling isolated. You need to be able to create joy.
Goyer sees joy as a survival skill for caregivers. She made it a point to convey how it can be so easy to get lost, to get down about things that inevitably happen during the aging process. So, you have to be able to find joy in things. There is so much to be gained, and there are so many simple joys to be experienced if you create them. Being mindful and seeing the value in now can be a game changer.
Goyer made two wonderful videos on the subject: one is about creating joy, and the other is about noticing joy. They are both great supplementary resources for those looking for a new and informed perspective on caregiving, and living as a caregiver.