beyond the video

Understanding Caregiving—One Expert's Thoughts



Video summary
Wendy Lustbader, M.S.W., is a popular lecturer, trainer and author of the books Counting on Kindness, What's Worth Knowing, and Taking Care of Aging Family Members. Her web site is http://lustbader.com/. Also read more about her in this interview .

In these brief excerpts of one of her lectures, she advises:

Caregivers lay endless forms of guilt on themselves, and because of that guilt, often deprive themselves of joys they deserve. Wendy suggests that we guard against that tendency and absorb all the pleasures we can in the midst of difficult circumstances. She specifically advises us not to compare ourselves to other caregivers or to take personally any comparisons our loved ones make. That can be extremely difficult to do, especially when we are being compared unfairly to a sibling who is less involved in a parent's care!

Relationships change when someone becomes a caregiver, and when we valued the old relationship, that can be hard to face. Wendy cited one woman's description of coming to terms with her husband's new status as a quadriplegic as "divorcing him in my mind, and choosing to marry him again on new terms."

On days when we are feeling particularly overburdened and accepting the new reality is the last thing we want to do, Wendy suggests that crying is not only natural, but healthy. She notes that being able to cry on the shoulder of a trusted, non-judgmental relative or friend seems to ease our pain.

On the other hand, pay attention to when sadness turns to resentment. Wendy notes that resentment is like a line across your stomach. When you feel yourself moving from hard work into resentment, you know you have crossed the line into doing too much. Resentment poisons relationships.

Take care of yourself – give yourself the getaways you need – and remember that keeping your sense of humor can get you through the toughest times.

Applying the video to your own situation

  • Think about Wendy's advice and what parts of it are especially important for you to absorb. For example, do you lay a lot of guilt on yourself? How can you overcome it?
  • Most caregivers don't do enough to take care of themselves. Spend some time thinking about your own needs and creative ways they could be met.
  • Keeping your sense of humor can be a saving grace. Think about times humor has "gotten you through," and how you can continue to nurture it.

Adapted from: A Prescription for Caregivers: Take Care of Yourself; Wendy Lustbader, Seattle, WA

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Beyond the Video

On days when we are feeling particularly overburdened and accepting the new reality is the last thing we want to do, Wendy suggests that crying is not only natural, but healthy.