There are so many things to take care of in our lives. There are so many things on the list. There are so many people to take care of. How do we prioritize? Are you on the list of priorities?

It is important for us to listen to the voice inside us when it says, “I need some relief” or “I’m so tired” or “I just can’t visit my elderly, ill parents today.” Your body, your mind is telling you something. Listen to your voice because it is protecting you.

While I was taking care of my parents, I would sometimes hear this voice within me. I listened because I realized that if I didn’t take care of myself, I wouldn’t be in any condition to take care of my parents. I had a full time job, would check in with my parents every day during the work week, and would visit them to take care of chores on the weekends.

My father had dementia and my mother had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and needed 24 hour care. I had to face the fact that I could not take care of my parents at home, as was the tradition in my Spanish family. I had a full time job but it was not that fact that stopped me for taking one or both of them to live with me.

My job allowed me to have some breathing room. I needed time away from my caretaking duties. It was time to get perspective on my parents' illnesses. It was time to decide what my next move would be in their caretaking. And my job provided me the time to be productive and in control of my situation.

In addition, I realized that I didn't have the tools, the knowledge to deal with dementia or with someone in constant pain. I was too emotionally involved with my parents to make rational decisions for their healthcare on a daily basis.

Yes, I did come from a Spanish family who always took care of their elderly at home. But times have changed. Sixty year old people still work, elderly parents live longer than they use to, and taking care of parents at home sometimes just doesn't work for the patients or the caregiver.

Give yourself a break. What is most important is that you are available when your parent needs you. You may not be available 24 hours a day, but they know you care.

Author's Bio: 

Annette Gonzalez is a lifelong Floridian and was raised in West Tampa, a Latin neighborhood in Tampa. As a child, she was nurtured in this environment and it affected her path toward her affection for her cultural roots and her affection for her family. West Tampa deeply influenced her desire to be a writer, speaker and storyteller.

Annette’s professional background includes positions as a social worker, real estate salesperson, business owner, education director at a PBS station, president of a chamber of commerce and director of business development at an educational association.

In September 2006, when Annette struggled with coping the loss of her mother, she began to experience the need to fill the emptiness in her heart and began documenting her feelings. Five months later, her father passed away and she embarked on a serious introspective on her purpose in life. This is when she began to write and speak about her parents’ deaths and how it impacted her. What was revealed was that Annette provided others who had lost their parents comfort and direction through her workshops, writings and speaking.

Annette will be speaking at the Time for Me Retreat, March 27-29, 2009.