Memories of family caregiving days with my Mom have come back like it was yesterday as I hold the hand of my dearest friend, who is unexpectedly passing away far too quickly. She fought a fierce battle with breast cancer for a year; the outcome seemed so hopeful. She was vigilant in changing her diet and getting back to her day-to-day life, and suddenly, she wasn’t feeling well and then progressively worse.
We had a conversation about test results she received, and when the tears came through the phone, she said, I just can’t tell you right now. A strong, loving woman that gave so much to life and others told me two days later that cancer had returned with a vengeance, and she had less than six months to live.
I quickly jumped in to coordinate in-home care for the family to ease the day-to-day caring and put together checklists for the time that followed my friend’s death. I held her hand, rubbed her back, reminisced of days gone by, and knew as I walked out the door in a ball of tears that her time was very short and the loss that lay ahead would be painful for so many.
For someone who knows the importance of caring for myself, especially in times like that, my own self-care quickly became obsolete. So very easy to do in the throws of caring for a loved one, time becomes irrelevant, and the tapes that play in your head become daunting. It was the voice of my sister that said, “Caregiver, care for yourself.” that brought me to a standstill.
Memories of days gone by, the angst of worrying about what comes next, or the rearview mirror of “...why didn’t I...?” happen so quickly. You are a caregiver around the clock, and self- care slips before you know it.
There are no words that can explain the emotions, pain, angst, and desire to make it ‘right’ as you go through your days. Whether it’s taking a short walk, going for a massage, gardening, or reaching out to others for support, please don’t neglect yourself on this journey. When you run on empty, you cannot continue to give and will become ill yourself. Trust me; it happens far too quickly.
Please take time now to start a practice of doing something every day for yourself.