Compassionate Caregiving: How to optimize your relationships

Laura Nissen PHOTO CREDIT: TH file

Laura Nissen PHOTO CREDIT: TH file

Laura Nissen PHOTO CREDIT: TH file

Laura Nissen PHOTO CREDIT: TH file

Caregiving done properly takes time, energy and attention. Many caregivers don’t realize how demanding it can be until they are caring for a child or parent. And what often happens is that caregivers “borrow time” from their partner, children, work, school or friendships.

Caregivers might feel anxious, frustrated, overwhelmed, tired, stressed, sad and perhaps angry with the dynamics that the caregiving role can create.

Partners of caregivers might feel angry, resentful, ignored, overwhelmed, frustrated as well.

Neither might have the energy or inclination to spend time nurturing relationships. Conflicts easily can arise when tensions are heightened, sleep is lost, and it feels like much is out of your control.

Let’s discuss what things you can do to strengthen your relationship with your partner as you continue to do the best you can in your role as a caregiver?

Here are tips to help you cope:

Make sure that your partner and other loved ones know how much your value your relationship. Discuss your concerns with them and express your desire to make sure that your relationship remains a priority. Brainstorm together about how you can keep your important relationship a high priority during this time. Some of these initiatives are small things that can be done easily. Perhaps starting your day together over a cup of coffee or spending a few minutes at night checking in about your day will help.Make communication an important practice. Be sure to ask your partner about their life and how they are doing. Perhaps you could schedule a regular happy hour or a breakfast date. Do they have concerns or things that are positive that they have noticed regarding your relationship? Express appreciation and gratitude for things your partner does that you perceive as being supportive. Ask your partner to do the same for you.Make time to do enriching things together that strengthen your relationship. Have a plan in place for regular breaks for you as the caregiver. Be proactive about this. Don’t wait until you are in a crisis mode and totally overwhelmed. Find someone to fill in so you can have time to spend with your partner in meaningful ways. It might be a relative, neighbor, friend or professional care staff. Use this free time to de-compress and do things you enjoy together. Keeping intimacy alive in your relationship is key to preserving it. It sends the message that your partner is important. It is a way of telling yourself that you are important. It also helps to remember to keep your relationship as a priority. The value of the gift of time in a relationship together cannot be understated or overlooked.

Caregiving is arduous. By prioritizing what relationships are most important to you, you will know where to spend your time and energy. With these suggestions, you can treasure and maintain your relationships while offering excellent caregiving skills to your loved one.

Remember: Your most treasured relationships are delicate and sensitive. These connections need to be nurtured with love and attention. Don’t ever test the limits of these bonds, as they can grow weaker if not attended to with extreme care.

Laura Nissen is the director of assisted living at Grand Meadows, a Luther Manor Community.

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