Why Practicing Extreme Imperfection Beats Self-Care

Every time I turn on my computer I see some story or advice about the importance of self-care, especially for women.

Such as….Arianna Huffington is on us to get more sleep. Now I’m awake all night worrying about the bad things that will happen to me if I don’t. Or this doozy from Christiane Northrup where she advises that caregivers be sure to eat a balanced diet, exercise and indulge ourselves.

Please!! There’s so much information out there about how to take better care of ourselves. And frankly it’s stressin’ me out! Because now, on top of everything else, I feel like I’m failing at self-care, which I’m told is a very dangerous thing to do.

Here’s the real deal…. The job of taking care of aging parents can be, in fact, a total life destroyer. It takes your money, your time, your ability to work, your friends, your relationships, your ability to do the things that you love, or to take a rest.

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Letting Go or “It’s not all about you”…

We asked daughterhood readers recently about the most stressful part of caregiving. Many responded that their biggest struggle is conflict with their parents. When their mother or father disagrees with or ignores safety or health-related directions. Things like not staying off the ladder to refusing to see a doctor.

It’s so hard to sit by and watch when our parents seem to need help but refuse to get it. We feel the full weight of responsibility for what happens to them but, at the same time, we have no control over their choices.

But we try. Women especially are taught that if they just try harder, get smarter, skinnier, dress better and be nicer, they’ll be okay. So it makes sense that this do-more mentality pervades our caregiving too. But this is a mean trap. We are — maybe not entirely consciously — judging our self-worth by whether we can stay in the ring without getting taken out by the realities of aging: mortality, frailty, disease and an upside down, seriously messed up healthcare system. Realities we shouldn’t even pretend to be able to influence.

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Throwing In The Towel: The 6 Most Important Questions to Ask When You Want to Quit Caregiving

I don’t know anyone who feels like they can just up and quit taking care of a loved one who needs it. The very nature of this role is that it’s not something you choose.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t often, or even always, wish we could get off the caregiving train. The work’s not fun. It’s unrelenting, hard and requires tremendous sacrifice.

Often in life, quitting can be a healthy thing to do… ending a toxic relationship, leaving a miserable job, or even moving on from a comfortable career so that you can do something more rewarding.

But, there are also times when we, either can’t or don’t really want to stop. We just need to find some way for the pressure, fear, and exhaustion to ease up a little.

If this is your situation, here are 6 questions you need to ask yourself.

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4 Tips for Talking to Your Parents About Death

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog about how important it is to prepare for end-of-life decisions you might have to make on behalf of your parents. I wrote about advance directives, and having important conversations with doctors and family.

I culled so much good advice from books and articles that it inspired me to talk to my own family.

Here’s how that went down.

Me to Dad: So, Dad, I’m writing a blog about preparing for end-of-life decisions and it occurred to me that we haven’t really talked about what you and mom want.
Dad: You think we’re DYING!?
(End of conversation)

Me to Sister: So, I’ve figured this all out. I’ll tell Mom and Dad that you should be the financial power of attorney because you’re good with money and I’ll be the healthcare power of attorney because I’m good with healthcare
Sister: * ? *
Me: Oh, see, I was thinking we should get Mom and Dad to focus on creating their advance directives — you know, end-of-life planning
Sister: Is there a book I can read about this?
Me: You know I’m an expert, right? Don’t you trust me?
(End of conversation)

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3 Resources to Ease Caregiver Money Worries

In a recent survey, AARP found that about three-quarters of all caregivers spend, on average, 20 percent of their household income on caregiving.

This is on top of the estimated $470 billion in unpaid care that they provide; and doesn’t include the potential lost income due to work-related strain that over half of caregivers report.

It’s clear that caring for a family member creates a financial hardship for many, and even a catastrophe for some; especially when caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.

If you’ve experienced it, you know that there’s nothing worse than feeling financially strapped! Especially if you’re also feeling overwhelmed by caregiving responsibilities. So, if you are facing economic strain because of a caregiving situation, here are a few organizations that may be able to help.

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Caring for Aging Parents – A Sibling’s Survival Guide

There are many heartbreaking moments to navigate when our parents start to depend on us for care. But few are as painful as fighting with our siblings.

This doesn’t always happen. Sibling relationships can be a source of strength and comfort as parents grow older. But, more often than not, friends tell me about severe conflicts they have with their brothers and sisters, and the suffering it causes.

Like so much to do with caregiving, these clashes often come as a surprise. No one imagines that by caring for their aging parents, they’ll be thrust into such emotionally charged interactions with their siblings. It’s such a shock to go from seeing family once a year over the holidays to navigating our parents needs together daily.

Taking care of parents puts incredible stress on interactions between adult children. The fragile scaffolding of sibling relationships, so carefully constructed over a lifetime, often comes crashing down.

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3 Reasons You Might Not Be Getting the Help You Need

It’s 5 am on a Saturday morning and I’m lying awake with that cold, sweaty, anxious feeling that comes from deep existential angst masquerading as too many things to do. I know something has to change – that there’s GOT to be another way to look at my life..to live so that panic isn’t my default emotional channel.

One of the good things about being almost 50 is that I can look back on the last 20 years and realize that being anxious all the time doesn’t change much, regardless of what I’ve got on my plate. In other words, my responsibilities have always felt like too much, even when I was taking math tests in 5th grade.

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What Caregivers Really Want Their Friends to Know

Remember when your first friends entered parenthood and you thought they seemed so boring and self-absorbed.

And, then… you had a baby and you got it?

Well, that’s happening again. Only this time, it’s because some of us have started taking care of our aging parents. And others are wondering what happened to their fun friends.

The truth is, caring for aging parents is an experience that’s hard to relate to unless you’re going through it. None of us can easily imagine just what life is like with a parent who needs help doing the simplest things like eating, getting in and out of bed or god forbid, going to the bathroom.

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What to Do When Your Best Efforts Aren’t Good Enough

My neighbor George is not a daughter but he’s certainly part of the daughterhood. You see, until a year ago, he spent most of his time taking care of his parents in the home they shared.

Now, from my perspective, he was the best kind of son any parents could hope to have and he fully embodied the spirit of honoring your mother and father.

But from his perspective, he was constantly failing.

Once he relayed a story to me about how he was in the kitchen one night making dinner for his parents – both bed bound in different rooms upstairs. As he’s running the food trays up and down the stairs, as he did for every meal, suddenly his mother calls out, “Come sit with me.”

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4 Things You Can Do to Make Caregiving Less Tedious

I once had a therapist tell me that I had “the most disordered thinking” of anyone he had ever seen. In light of this diagnosis, I probably deserve a gold medal for getting out of bed most mornings.

My secret to staying semi-sane is to keep really, really busy and to surround myself with lots of people. For someone like me, being bored is deadly.

And, I am going to admit something that I think maybe none of us would say out loud. I find that taking care of other people, whether they are 2 or 102, can often be really boring. I mean, reaalllllyyy TEDIOUS.

I am, for example, not particularly tolerant of caregiving situations that require me to demonstrate a lot of physical strength while being screamed at, and then to have to repeat the whole thing over and over again. I am pretty sure that wrestling a tantruming 2 year old into a car seat looks very similar to some of the exercises they do at Army ranger training.

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