• How do I balance caring for my mom, and maintaining my own emotional health?

    Asked by hjtobar on Thursday, October 4, 2012

    How do I balance caring for my mom, and maintaining my own emotional health?

    I chose to leave my job after my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and became her caregiver. I would not want it any other way, however I am quickly realizing that I am out of balance with taking care of her and myself at the same time. My mom and I are extremely close, and for the first time I'm not able to talk to my mom about something. I find myself holding back my emotions as I watch this beautifully strong woman's hands shake, or her become weak and tired after visiting with a friend or family member. What are some things that I can do to better balance the way I am dealing with my mom's diagnosis and caring for her as well as myself?

    4 Answers from the Community

    4 answers
    • packerbacker's Avatar

      I really respect you for being so devoted to your Mom. It's got to be really hard to help, but at the same time feel helpless. I'm not great at it, but prayer helps me. There are respite programs that have someone come to your home and sit with/care for your Mom and you can go and run errands and basically, take some time for yourself. Are there any other family members or friends that can help out? You need to take care of yourself, too, otherwise you're not as good for your Mom. Do you have someone to talk to about your feelings and your life? When your Mom has good days, I bet she would appreciate just talking, or if you share some of what's going on with you, be it life in general or your feelings and concerns for her. Are you able to talk about that at all?

      I'm very close to my Mom, too. I'm the one with cancer and at first, we didn't talk much about it, but now we are able to talk about anything again. There are tears, but sharing them with Mom instead of shedding them alone helps me. I wish you and your Mom the best. Many hugs your way!

      about 5 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      Hello. I'm also a caregiver for my dad, who has had two major cancers within the last three years, and other chronic health issues. Here is some information from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, both of which are excellent starting places for information on cancer topics:


      It can be difficult being both a caregiver and a family member. If at some point, your mom uses Hospice care, I have heard they are also good at helping the caregiver. You might try seeing if your local Hospices or other resources have any coping assistance and training available for caregivers whose family have not yet entered Hospice. Other than that, I would say do not feel that you have to do everything perfectly. Accept help from others if offered. Find someone nearby you can talk to-- a friend, a family member. Bring in someone to give you a little break, even for an hour or two to walk through a park, shopping store, or something you enjoy. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel, and find some way to express it. Slow down, and take one day at a time. Focusing too far into the future, and thinking about every possibility is overwhelming.

      Remember that while it's a horrible time that we hope no one would have to go through, it can also come with an unexpected "gift," for lack of a better word. 100% of us are going to die, and have to get off of the ride at some point. Life is short and fragile, and some form of suffering is almost as inevitable as death. 100% of suffering is also temporary. We are told when we are young that we're going to die, but it doesn't seem real until we have an illness. If someone has a heart attack or is hit by a car, they are gone in a flash, and survivors grieve. I have heard some chronic health situations called, "the long goodbye," but I like to think of caregiving for an advanced cancer as, "the long thank you." Dad's home care nurse after his last hospital stay said you wouldn't believe the number of people who have absolutely nobody. Can you imagine someone facing this on their own? It's an opportunity to show how grateful you are for mom, and for that beautiful, loving close relationship you have-- gratitude for what you do have, and the life you were given. It's an opportunity to tell her how much you love her. It's a chance to remember all the good times you have had together, all the challenges overcome. It's a chance to fully appreciate and grab onto every second of time you do have together, that is often taken for granted. It's a good time to ease her worries that you can take care of yourself also.

      I want you to know that, whether your beliefs are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, Wiccan, or any other, you are both bigger than the cells that make up your body, or anything that happens to them. You are not alone, not the first, not the last to go through this. You are bigger than any temporary physical or emotional suffering you feel. You are bigger than the sum of all your worries in life. So take a deep breath, slow down, relax and take one moment at a time while you are here. Your mom and you are very lucky to have each other.

      about 5 years ago
    • ticklingcancer's Avatar

      This is a very good question. You have a couple of good responses but I honestly don't think you're going to get the answer you're looking for on this one. I say that because there is no easy way to balance these two things. I just don't think it's possible. Both Packerbacker and FreeBird are absolutley spot on when they say "you need someone to talk to". You need that person that you can wrap your arms around, bury your face in their shoulder and cry for as long as your emotions will let you cry. Then you put that strong "Caregiver Face" on (my wife had a good one) and continue to take care of your Mom. Just by being there with her you're already doing what you should. But also remember, you need time for yourself as Freebird said. Just a few hours each week to try and get your mind off of what your Mom is dealing with. You keep your head up and pray hard everyday.

      about 5 years ago
    • Queen_Tatiana's Avatar

      I stopped working 5 years ago to care for my mom who at the time was 89 and had dementia and could no longer be left alone. I really wanted to be the one caring for her. 3 years later I was a complete wreck because in the course of taking care of mom I forgot to take care of myself. I stopped seeing friends, dropped my book club, church, and a Jane Austen group--all of which I loved and enjoyed so much. Friends stopped calling because I always turned down invitations.

      I tell you all of this so that you know you must take care of yourself. Mom is now 94 and after 2 strokes we made the decision to place her in a care facility where we visit weekly and take her little dog to see her every Sunday afternoon. My mother's situation is very different from yours, but taking care of yourself is a priority in giving your mom the best care you can.

      I learned the hard way that it really is true that you cannot take care of someone else if you don't take care of yourself too. My thoughts are with you and your mom.

      about 5 years ago

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