Kupuna Transitions: 12-9-16

Many caregivers choose to help out their adult loved one “temporarily” and next thing they know, the years have rolled by and they are burned out. It is helpful to remain conscious of whether you’re involved in a temporary fix or long-term situation if you are providing care for a loved one.

Caregiver burnout comes on slowly and shows itself in multiple ways that are often overlooked at first. Chronic exhaustion, emotional highs and lows, and forgetfulness are symptoms of stress overload. You often see relationship breakdown within a family at this point. There is a better way to be there for someone, and I hope these thoughts will help you make the necessary adjustments for improved connections.

One thing I hope we all consider is the cost of expecting family to be the ones to care for us if the time should come. I believe that family is critical in assisting with the selection and monitoring of the care that is provided, yet ought to remain in their current familial roles of child, grandchild and spouse. If you realize that this is your ideal, please make it clear to your family that you want them to seek assistance if you should need care.

If you are the family member who feels the responsibility to care for your family member, create a team of people who can be part of the solution for the long haul. Whether utilizing the assistance of friends or care professionals, jointly carrying the weight of the responsibility involved in managing a loved one’s life will lead to a healthier outcome on all fronts.

I recently read the new book “Settle for More” written by Megyn Kelly. Something she said resonated with me as relatable to the caregiving dynamic. Mrs. Kelly says that “when something that is good morphs into to something bad and is not changing back, one has to stay conscious of that.” Long-term caregiving can become dangerously unhealthy for the family caregiver going at it alone. The book goes on to explain that living to our highest potential is “not an end game, it’s an active process.” We all deserve to have a fulfilling life all of our days, as each one is precious.

Raising your hand and saying that you will be there for your loved one is very, very good. Please keep this message in mind, though. If you find that any part of the situation is not working for your greater good as well, find help and adjust the dynamic. I like to relate the importance of re-evaluating our well-being to that of asking Siri for directions. If you take a turn that she hadn’t expected, she will re-route you and find another way to get you to your destination. You can do that for yourself, as well, as long as you know where you want to go.

Happy holidays! May your spirit be lightened by the joy of community and love.

Karyn Clay began caring for older adults 22 years ago and earned a B.A. in Gerontology from SDSU in 1998. She founded Ho’oNani Day Center in 2002 and Ho’oNani Care Home in 2015, which are located on the same property in Kamuela. She invites you to join her Caregiver Conversations gatherings at Tutu’s House, held on the 1st Wednesday of every month, and on YouTube with her Karyn’s Caregiving Support series.

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