Naming, Claiming and Meeting Your Needs

 Naming, Claiming and Meeting Your Needs is a concept I have used over the years to encourage caregivers to consider in order to care for themselves as they care for others. Oftentimes the Caring for Others emerges out of sheer necessity, because we love them and want to care for them, because they’re blood relatives, or because the love is deep and wide enough that nothing else matters. How lucky we are…and how fortunate they are as well.
Original graphic of loving hands releasing children to play
It’s not easy, is it? And you’re not quitting either, are you? And that is goodness shared in both directions. It also means that meeting your needs should also be a part of strategy over the long haul.
Yet still, the stamina needed and ability to do what’s needed falls on you. Almost no one else thinks about this either, or at least it never gets mentioned. But now and then you do. And you pray and you hope that what you do you will be able to continue, that you will be able to care for this loved one for as long as it’s needed and for as long as you can.
People may call you a saint or say how amazing you are. And while such words of affirmation feeds your heart and sense of purpose, it contributes little to what needs to get done tomorrow.

Naming, Claiming and Meeting Your Needs

If a part, or seemingly the whole of your life has been given over to the care of another person, or to more than one person, it becomes even more important to also identify your own needs and desires too. Here, I’m not referring to caring for another person for a few days or weeks until they are up and running on their own again. I’m talking long-term, months and frequently years. And if you’re going to be able to go the distance, naming, claiming and meeting your own needs too becomes very important also.
You may say that you don’t have time for meeting your needs, or that you don’t have any special desires or needs of your own. But you do. We all do. To find out, read and consider answering the following questions:
  • What things or activities that you have found yourself longing for that have not happened for you in what feels like ages, if ever? Name name them and just write them down.
  • When is the last time that you have truly had a whole day off and away from caring for another person whom you love? Write it down, (18 days? 3 weeks? 11 months?)
  • What would it take to make a day happen so that you are off-duty? What prevents this from happening? Is it finding coverage? Affordability? Fear? Guilt? Try to answer this multi-part question honestly on paper.
If you have been able to answer the questions above honestly the next step is how to go about carving our a block of time for yourself, preferably on a recurring basis. Doing so may seem daunting, so getting some help from another person may be helpful. Consider asking a trusted friend to help you think this through and come up with a plan. A clergy person and sometimes a therapist can be very helpful here. Even discussing your need with a small circle of friends can work too…but you have to let them know that you’re struggling to find time for yourself. These people will care, about you, and they almost always can help you.

Resources to Consider

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers a great section for parents and caregivers who provide care to children. This is a great resource for information, education and support.
AARP’s Resources for Caregivers is considered one of the best sources for support and info on a huge number of topics. Note too that you do not need to be a member of AARP to use their resources. And their resources are applicable for people of all ages, not just elders.
CareGiver Reviews: This site reviews dozens of programs, apps, and other resources. A terrific place to browse for things you may not even know exist!
Caring.Com: This site explains nearly every aspect of what different home-based care providers do and don’t do; what they cost, etc. A state-by-state listing is also listed of agencies and programs located within specific states.
MyLifeLine.org:  This site focuses on sources of support for people providing care to a person with cancer.
Check out other sections of Rest In the Storm on this site regarding your own self-care!
Text and graphic by Kevin Lee