After a beautiful meditation session last evening, based upon the concept of compassion, I had a flash of insight into how to maintain balance for Caregivers.
As Caregivers, we are thrust into a 24/7/365 role of maintaining the quality of life for someone else. That someone else is often an adult in-law, parent, or friend that is no longer able to care for themselves. The self-care that they can no longer accomplish, on many different levels, is what becomes the duty of the Caregiver. With love and compassion, the Caregiver extends their willingness to assume those duties.
The Patient or Ward becomes the receiver of the Care”giver’s” time and energy. Thus, the Caregiver “gives” and there is often little or no return or give-back by the Patient to the Caregiver. The relationship gets out of balance. Of course there are altruistic emotional aspects of Caregiving – those rewards that are innate in any situation where there is love. That is not what I am speaking about here. I’m referring to the never-ending giving for long periods of time that physically and mentally exhaust the Caregiver.
Here’s an example of this situation: the Patient requests something simple like a cup of coffee. The Caregiver lovingly provides the coffee, and pours them the last cup in the pot. Then the Caregiver attends to other duties like laundry, dishes, housecleaning, and all of the other millions of tasks done during a day. While the Caregiver has an armload of clean clothes being returned to a closet, the Patient requests another cup of coffee. The Patient is totally unaware that the Caregiver is already doing something else, but expects their need to be met. As they should, the Caregiver tells the Patient that it will be just a minute while the clothes are put in the closet and then a fresh pot of coffee will made. Unfortunately, the Patient may be mentally unable to accept this reasonable explanation for the time lapse between the request for coffee and the time it appears in front of them. They look at the Caregiver in confusion. They truly cannot grasp that the coffee doesn’t magically appear instantly. They request the coffee, again, and again, and again.
As simplistic as this scenario sounds, imagine this happening with different needs, all day, every day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
The wearing down of the compassionate Caregiver is looming. To the Caregiver, although they understand the mental situation of the Patient, the incessant demands upon them cannot help but cause fractures in their soul. These fractures build until the Caregiver loses one chip of compassion at a time. Unfortunately, this internal breakdown of the Caregiver’s compassion is something that builds slowly over time, one chip at a time, until the Caregiver’s well of compassion is dry. Over time, the Caregiver’s psyche is totally out of balance because there is no understanding or give-back by the Patient.
At this point, the Caregiver must become aware of the nature of their personal imbalance and take steps to replenish their well, or they will no longer be able to serve in the way in wish that want to serve. Respite time must be taken.
Now how does all of this relate to the “aha” moment I had in meditation last evening? Here’s what I learned from the Universe: as I asked for greater compassion, what I received was the word “trust”. The concept of trust leapt into my brain in its meditative state. I realized that the trust answer meant that I as Caregiver, am meant to trust myself. This trust is the enduring light of knowing that I must look within and always trust that I will know when respite is necessary. I will know when and how to say “no” to the Patient. I will know that I have the ability and strength to be compassionate for another day.
Balance means that the answers come from within. Finding balance means I must trust my own wisdom from within. Finally, I must remember to ask the Universe for balance whenever a situation arises in my Caregiving role and wait for the desired goal to arrive. I trust that it will. Respite arises from within.