How to Care for Others
Without Losing Yourself
Caregiver sacrifice is something most of us experience every day when we’re caring for a loved one with a terminal illness. I witnessed my friend Julia’s long journey through caregiver sacrifice when her husband was diagnosed with cancer and was given 12 to 18 months to live.
Robert decided to fight the cancer. He submitted to a series of treatments that kept him alive, and Julia nursed him through the horrendous side effects. Four years later she said, “I am done putting my life on hold waiting for Robert to die. I don’t know how much longer he has, but I know if I don’t start living myself, I’m going to give out before he does.”
To someone who hasn’t spent every minute of every day and every single ounce of energy battling against a relentless disease, Julia’s comment may sound harsh. But it was obvious she had reached the end of her rope. I supported her plan to start doing some things for herself.
By getting back into an exercise routine and rejoining some of her volunteer organizations, Julia reconnected with friends and found the emotional energy she needed to keep on going. When Robert died two years later, she was sad, but she wasn’t all alone. She was still connected to people who cared about her and who were there to provide compassion, comfort and companionship.
The demands of caregiving can become all consuming. That’s why it’s critically important that you find a way to care for your care receiver without entirely sacrificing your own mental, physical and emotional well-being. If you can do that, you’ll have more love and energy to give to your care receiver. And when it’s over, like Julia, you will be sad, but you will still have a life worth living.