If you’ve looked at my website, you can tell that most of my clients are family caregivers. Sometimes I also coach healthcare professionals (clearly a caregiving role) and occasionally, my clients fit into both categories – clinicians who also have a family member at home or in a facility, clearly under their care! I call that double-jeopardy.
Many of my clients don’t discover me (or hire me as their Health Coach) until they’re in pretty deep, physically, emotionally and spiritually – they’re overwhelmed with caregiving (on top of everything else they manage in life) and at the end of their rope. I’m that hand they grab when they’re honestly sure they’re going to drown. I often wish I’d met them sooner.
That’s a terrible time to ask for help, but I get it – until that point, there was simply too much else to do, too many chores to keep up with, too much emotional exhaustion and a bit of shame that stems from the mistaken belief that “I really should be able to handle all this on my own!” I’m always glad they connect with me, whenever they finally get around to acknowledging that taking care of themselves is crucial to staying alive.
And that’s the point of today’s blog – what is the danger in overlooking overwhelm? What happens to those who push past the point of getting help or realizing that they’ve moved beyond the failure to pursue self-preservation (which is what self-care provides) and are sliding into the realm of self-destruction? To say it honestly, they die.
In his article, Caregivers dying before care recipients with dementia, Gaugler (2018), who’s right here, at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues remind us of the serious truth that 18% of family caregivers will actually die before the person whom they’re tending to, largely because of the stress of their caregiving role. That’s roughly one in five. Overwhelm is serious (as a heart-attack!) and it is a symptom caregivers really cannot afford to overlook!
Most of my clients are, by their own acknowledgment, feeling the effects of overwhelming stress when they first connect with me. Their initial goal is often just to feel better, find their way to experience a good night’s sleep or rediscover their sense of “enough” that gets lost when you are struggling to prioritize your own needs.
It’s hard for them to admit that they need help – or that anyone, or anything can help! And, generally speaking, these are experienced caregivers. They’ve been at it for a while and the stress has become cumulative, wearing away at them over time.
So today my question for you is two-fold:
- Are YOU in overwhelm? Are you at a place in life where your body and soul are trying to tell you that you must reach out, do things differently, and find your way back to a loving relationship with yourself? If so, I urge you to reach out to me. We’ll know within the first consultation call (completely free, book it on my website) whether or not I’m suited to be your coach or if you need something or someone else. It’s that simple. And yet, it can feel difficult.
- Do you KNOW someone in overwhelm? Especially if that person is a caregiver – YOU may offer just the encouragement they need to reach out and ask for help. Be the person who might make all the difference in the world to them – please share this blog or point them to my website.
There are times in life when we all need help. This may be the time for someone you know. I want to assure you that my clients “graduate” from needing me – they reach a place where they can navigate without my help and manage their self-care practices along with their caregiving responsibilities – they’re amazing!
And there’s one more thing I’m ready to put out there, by the end of the year, Overwhelmed to Overjoyed – that online course I’ve been working on for ages – will be ready to launch. I’ll have a larger announcement about that when the time comes, but for now, please understand that that this course is intended to serve caregivers who just aren’t ready to commit to coaching.
It is designed to be a self-paced, online learning opportunity where, by listening to the presentations (6 of them) and completing the exercises (handouts that the participant can print and use like a workbook) the learner actually begins to practice some of the core self-care skills that every caregiver needs. They’re probably skills that every human needs, but caregiving exacerbates our self-care deficit.
Please stay tuned for the announcement of the launch, and until then, send the one you know who’s overwhelmed by the demands of caregiving my way – in time, they will thank you for the referral. And I will of course, be deeply appreciative!
*Gaugler, Joseph E., et al. “Caregivers dying before care recipients with dementia.” Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions 4 (2018): 688-693.