Ask abbie

Published 11:16 am Saturday, July 20, 2013

I am a new and completely stressed out full-time caregiver for my mother. Many of my family members are constantly criticizing how I do things even though they aren’t willing to share the responsibility. I’m having a hard time balancing my mother’s needs with those of my husband and children. I also worry constantly about my finances since I can’t work. You mentioned being a caregiver for one of your family members in one of your columns so I wanted to know if you had any suggestions for me. Most days I feel like I’m going to lose it.

What do toilet paper, a zipper, a mobile phone and an automobile have in common? Humans can make it without them, but with the utilization of each of their daily tasks become easier and their lives more efficient.

What do non-judgmental support, realistic expectations, “Me” time, and strong faith have in common? Caregivers can make it without them, but with the utilization of each their daily tasks become easier and their lives more efficient.

Each of these suggestions, when implemented successfully, will improve your on-the-job and at-home efficiency by reducing your overall frustration and anxiety. You will feel less like you are going to lose it, and more like each trial you encounter is a privilege to receive rather than a detriment to survive.

Surround yourself with non-judgmental support and distance yourself from those who heighten your defenses or make you question yourself. Those who encourage you will inherently boost your efficiency while those who try and hold you back will tend to deplete your resources. Be willing to share your emotional and physical burdens with others by joining a support group, by expressing how you feel to those who care and want to listen, and by accepting offers of physical help such as having someone sit with your mother for an hour. Remind yourself your situation is temporary and that one day you will be able to return the favors.

Set realistic expectations for yourself and for others to keep feelings of disappointment and frustration from making you less efficient. Realize if someone doesn’t want to be happy you can’t make him that way. Expect criticism from those who feel bad about themselves; don’t take it personally. Make an honest assessment of your own limitations and set small attainable goals. Beware of setting any goal in which your ability to accomplish it is not certain for such goals often lead to unnecessary anxiety. Accept the fact you can do anything but not everything.

Take “Me” time. This is the time when your well-being takes priority over that of others. Its purpose is to renew and protect your own mental, physical, and emotional strength. If you neglect any one part of yourself you will soon find yourself having to neglect those who have been entrusted to your care. Get your sleep. Not only does a lack of sleep make you grumpy but according to WebMD it also causes accidents, dumbs you down, can lead to serious disease such as heart disease and high blood pressure, causes depression, ages your skin, makes you forgetful, and can make you gain weight. To include mental and spiritual distractions in your “Me” time, consider playing an instrument, writing, crafting and meditating. Never forget to take at least three deep breaths a day.

Finally, practice strong faith. When I operate in my faith I am met with consistent peace, total freedom from worry and anxiety, unwavering strength, and maximum efficiency. When I neglect to operate in my faith I am faced with feelings of negativity, frustration, and doubt. It remains up to me to stay on constant alert for any sneak attack initiated by the enemy in the form of a destructive thought. When I sense its presence, and choose to call upon my faith, I thwart its threat. If I choose to call upon myself, instead of my faith, I encounter a lengthy campaign.

Throughout the many emotional and physical demands placed upon you as a caregiver and regardless of the often-absent signs of appreciation for your effort, never underestimate the strength and power of your attitude. It has enough force to cause a major impact not only on your health and well-being but also on that of your mom, family, and friends. Dedicate yourself to being the best you can be and to doing the best you can do. This way you will be able to enter your mother’s room, whether occupied or vacant, with a strength and confidence that only freedom from regret can provide.

Abbie Long is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to