Working caregivers frequently express some version of, “I did such a great job caring for my dad a few years ago when he was dying… but I just don’t have the same energy for my mom who needs me now.” These working caregivers often struggle with a variety of upsetting thoughts and emotions. What does this mean? Did I love my dad more than my mom? Am I becoming selfish? Am I myself now too old to handle both caregiving and work?
Working caregivers need to take a step back and remember that every single caregiving situation is unique. While most working parents acknowledge that some children have more complex needs than others, the same is true for dependent older loved ones. Also, job circumstances can change which make the caregiving process more challenging. Working caregivers who have cared for more than one older loved one should consider the following three questions when a caregiving situation seems particularly daunting or more difficult:
1. Is your job different now from the last time you were a caregiver? Are you traveling more for work? Do you have more responsibility? Are you working more hours? Often it’s your work duties that have changed, not your ability to be empathic.
2. Have you been currently caregiving for more than a year? Often a short-term caregiving situation like helping an older loved one recover from a surgery or even end of life care is much more manageable than a caregiving situation that seems to go on indefinitely. Acknowledge this and figure out ways to get more help (paid or through friends and family).
3. Does the older loved one you are currently caring for have a challenging personality? Especially if the older loved one you are caring for now is not particularly appreciative, working caregivers are often going to find it harder than taking care of past older loved ones who may have expressed gratitude.
Working caregivers need to remember that some caregiving situations are harder than others. A variety of conflicting emotions while balancing caregiving and work are common. The most balanced working caregivers make sure they are taking care of their physical, mental and spiritual health to minimize the impact of these tough feelings. For more help in taking care of yourself, check here.