When Caregivers Need Healing

Here are five ways you can bring mindfulness into your caregiving. 

Photograph by Corey Kohn

By Nell Lake

Many of us find ourselves caring for loved ones braving old age, decline, and dying. Caregiving is demanding—at times overwhelming. Yet it can also cultivate intimacy, wisdom, and insight. For my book, The Caregivers: A Support Group’s Stories of Slow Loss, Courage, and Love, I chronicled the experiences of the members of a caregivers support group for more than a year. Here are some things I learned about mindful caregiving:

1. Be where you are

It’s a central principle of mindfulness: trying to do one thing at a time, and knowing that you’re doing it, and doing it with kindness toward yourself.

Caregiving often requires responding to seemingly countless needs, appointments, tasks. Studies show caregivers face higher rates of stress and illness than non-caregivers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, lonely, frequently angry and irritable or guilty, and/or crying a lot, you’re likely at risk of burnout. Some suggestions for easing your stress:

• speak with your doctor. He or she should be able to help you find resources that help.

• call your local senior center to ask about sources of support such as senior day care and/or respite programs and support groups.