I find it hard to believe there is actually a word in the English language that could possibly describe what caregivers go through. There can't be! The experiences during the process of caregiving are often a deep, emotional shift accompanied by confusion, frustration, and even resentment for many. Somewhere along the line, one loses oneself, and their individuality blurs with the needs of the loved one.

Most are caregivers out of love and affection, and others caregive because it is not financially feasible to pay for professional care. Perhaps a child has a strong desire to care for mom or dad, or possibly a sense of obligation. They will often caregive for as long as they can, only to surrender when they reach a point where they can no longer offer the quality of care the loved one really needs. It makes no difference what the scenario is -- all have experienced the same emotional labor.

Who then will care for you, the caregiver? Ultimately, the answer is you. We've all heard the saying that "you have to remain strong for those you care for, so please take care of yourself." But are caregivers really taking the time to replenish their bodies and spirits? If I were a betting lady, I would say no. As a dutiful daughter myself, I would (without thought) put my parents first at every turn, and eventually become weak in body, mind, and spirit. Lost somewhere between raising children and tending to fragile parents, there is a place called limbo. We must prevent ourselves from going there, by anchoring ourselves to a solid, stable place.

What I have learned along the way from my clients is that it is 100% necessary to tend to yourself. When you board an airplane, the flight attendant talks about placing the oxygen over your mouth before assisting others. This is done because without you, the others might perish. The strong one must get stronger (have oxygen) before helping those who aren't strong. Place the mask over your mouth and "breathe." The same is true when your feet are on the ground, and you are a caregiver.

There never seems to be enough hours in the day. While this may be true, I have heard many of my elderly clients say, "You must make the time, because it is important to your well-being." Here are some suggestions I have learned along the way that might bring some "oxygen" to your life, so you can breathe again.

** You are all you've got! Make dates with your spouse and children to keep sanity in check and keep bonds fresh. This is imperative, so make yourself a promise to do this.

** Rest and replenish, even if you have to steal private moments in the backyard, in prayer or meditation, or just sitting.

** If you are experiencing guilt, anger, jealousy, resentment, etc., seek the assistance of close friends, a counselor, your minister or rabbi. Realize that much of what you are feeling is perfectly normal. Know when to seek professional help if you become depressed, anxious, or feelings that are not normal.

** Combat depression by finding time to engage in an activity that brings you pleasure -- a walk with your children or grandchildren, writing in your journal, getting out for 2 or 3 hours to do some shopping. Respite is available in many communities, just so you can rest from caregiving.

** Pay attention to these things: sleeping, nutrition, and exercise. Eat as well as you can, and eat fruits (natural pick-me-up) and granola bars, plus plenty of water. The brain is less tired when hydrated, and your organs love it too. Sleep is one of the first things we lose in stressful situations. Instead of relying on artificial sleep aids, try listening to soothing music, curling up with a good book, and cutting down on caffeine.

** If your loved one is napping, pop a yoga DVD into the TV and do some stretching; that is really very invigorating. Better yet, if you can get away for an hour, go get a massage.

** Listen to music during the day, preferably easy listening, classical, inspirational, or other calming music.

** Spiritual self-care. Make time for reflection and spend time with nature. Stay connected with your faith-based organization or church, or consider joining one. Many churches and ministries offer caregiver support groups, or other practical helps.

** Be open to inspiration that will come from others. Surround yourself with kind and loving people.

Copyright 2010, The Estate Lady

Author's Bio: 

Julie Hall, known as The Estate Lady, is a professional estate liquidator and certified personal property appraiser. With more than eighteen years experience, she has assisted thousands of individuals in the daunting and often painful process of managing their deceased parents' affairs. http://www.theestatelady.com

She has authored a best-selling book titled "THE BOOMER BURDEN: How to Deal With Your Parents' Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff", currently available on Amazon.com. THE BOOMER BURDEN will guide loved ones on how to appropriately handle their parent's belongings while keeping one's sanity...and that is priceless.

Julie writes a weekly blog which is available at http://estatelady.wordpress.com, called The Estate Lady Speaks.