Wise Words for Caregivers

If you’ve been following our posts for the last few weeks, you know that we’ve based our latest blog series on Michael and Margaret Robble’s book Always Sick, Always Loved: Hope for Families Living with a Chronic Illness. The Robbles’ 25 years of experience in marriage, family, and spiritual growth during Margaret’s long-term sickness give them great credibility on these topics.

In today’s post, let’s talk about taking care of the caregiver.

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In one of my favorite parts of Always Sick, Always Loved,  Michael Robble tells of a memorable phone call he received from his sister:

Her mission was clear. This was no call about the latest family news. Susan’s agenda this night was to push me to take a long look at myself. Compassionately she began the interrogation.

“Mike, when was the last time you got a physical?”

“Uh, I don’t know, a few years ago, I guess,” I mumbled.

“When was the last time you saw a dentist?”

My insides started to squirm. “When I broke a tooth a few years ago, I think.”

Her parade of planned questions continued. “How often do you exercise? Are you eating right? Do you get enough sleep?”

The more she had to say, the more it dawned on me that I hadn’t been thinking much about my well being….Within minutes after we concluded our conversation, the importance of what she said began weighing on me.

As Margaret’s primary caregiver, I had been living with an attitude of invincibility….It was prideful to think that I could continue to push myself like I had been doing. If I persisted in this pattern of self-neglect, some type of breakdown was inevitable. Sue’s phone call was my wake up call. (pp.201-203)

Are you the primary caregiver for someone in your family? Could you use a call from Sue too?

I can really connect with this section of the Robbles’ book. Up until recently, I have not been taking the best care of myself. For the last several years I’ve pushed to juggle a heavy load of responsibilities. I was getting terrible sleep, eating poorly to cope, and sitting at a desk for most of the day. Not surprisingly, my weight was rising in proportion to my sleeplessness and stress level.

I’ve always had strong health, but my family cannot afford for me to take that for granted. As caretakers, it’s vital that we stay in the best condition possible so we can continue to help those who are depending on us.

My husband, Michael, often serves in Sue’s role, reminding me to stop and rest when I need to. He also insisted that I finally get to the dentist this summer, and he scheduled a physical for me this month—my first doctor’s visit in several years. He also does his best to help with the kids on his good days so I can get some exercise.

As caregivers, we all know there’s a reason why we neglect ourselves: It’s challenging to find the time! And we often struggle with guilt when we have to set other important things aside. But you must make you a priority too!

We’ll have to get creative. But it’s going to help everybody. Trust me.

Michael Robble suggests starting with a physical and a dental checkup. Then analyze your nutrition, exercise, and sleep habits. And you might consider taking some vitamins as well.

I would also add that setting aside a little time to do something that you enjoy will make a big difference too. For me, it’s reading in the bath or going for a walk and listening to music. Other times I relax on the couch and watch Fixer Upper—the show where everyone’s happy and all problems are solved in an hour!

These activities help me unwind and regroup. What helps you?

Make your health a priority today. It will put you at your best so you can take care of the ones you love.

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