Finding Perspective: Maze or Labyrinth?

DO YOU FIND YOURSELF LOST IN A MAZE?

The caregiver’s journey can be likened to walking through a maze. You cannot see what’s waiting around each corner — will there be a clear path, or a wall? What perspective does it give you?

In the beginning, a caregiver may approach their role much as a child faces their first adventure into a maze, with nervous anticipation, courage, and commitment.

The sense of commitment at the beginning fuels your inner strength and confidence.  You may feel a small twinge of dismay as you run into the first barrier, but you were expecting this to happen, so you simply retrace your steps and try a different route. However, as time goes on, the barriers become more difficult to tolerate and you may find that you’re not making the progress you had hoped for.  Your confidence starts to weaken.  You become frustrated, anxious, fearful, angry, disheartened, weary, resentful, and perhaps a bit panicky.

To make matters worse, while you’re stuck there with no end in sight, you can hear others outside the maze having a great time.  Life is passing you by.  It’s not fair.  You begin to doubt your own abilities to make it through and wish you had never tackled it to begin with.  You want out!

WHAT IF YOU WALKED A LABYRINTH INSTEAD?

This is often confused with a maze, but a labyrinth has one continuous path into the center and back out.  There are no barriers.

Now is the time to look deep into your soul.  What are your beliefs?  What are your values?  What purpose does your life serve?  What is at the beginning, center, and end?  Do you believe in a power greater than yourself?

As you walk the labyrinth, as in the maze, you cannot see what’s around the bend.  However, with a strong faith in your belief system, you trust that you will be led to the center, that you are where you’re meant to be, and that you will be led out.  You are not alone.

For me, this represents a strong faith in God and His promises.  I may not like where I am at the moment, but as long as I trust in God, He will walk with me through the trials, give me strength, nourish me, and lead me out.

FINDING PERSPECTIVE

What a person perceives, becomes their reality.  Your core values and beliefs are the firm foundation upon which to establish whether you’re struggling through a maze or walking steadily along the path of a labyrinth.  This will determine your perspective as a family caregiver, affecting your level of stress, and ultimately your health.

Let’s look at two scenarios:

One caregiver believes that we have only one life to live and when it’s over, there is nothing else.  We must take advantage of each moment to make ourselves happy, or rich, or famous. This person will feel resentment, anger, and despair when asked to make sacrifices.  Life is too short for that.  They view their caregiver role as a great burden.

Another caregiver may believe that each life has purpose and we are blessed to serve each other.  While their journey may be difficult, they do not feel alone, and believe that the best is yet to be in the life eternal.  They view their role as caregiver to be a blessing.  They are a blessing to the person for whom they care, and they will be blessed for their compassionate service.

Can you see who is likely to be more stressed, more unhappy, more bitter?  This is why it’s so valuable to take time to get in touch with your inner self.  Understand your personal values and beliefs to gain control of your thoughts and emotions.  You will revisit them many times on your caregiver journey, and there you will find comfort, peace, and strength.

SUMMARY

A maze, with its many paths and decisions regarding which direction to go, is designed to confuse and disorient you.  This can cause great stress through fear, frustration, and feelings of helplessness.  In a maze, you become lost.

When walking a labyrinth, your values and beliefs will guide you.  Your journey to the center may be bumpy, but you know you will find your way as long as you stay on the path.  In a labyrinth, you find yourself.

Your choice between the maze or the labyrinth will influence your perception of your role as a family caregiver.  Will it be a burden or a blessing?

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Learn more about the responsibilities of a family caregiver and why their role is a special calling. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Family Caregiver is Special

LET’S DEFINE WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT

“Family Caregiver” is a very simple term for a varied and complex set of responsibilities.

Most people think of a caregiver as one who attends to the physical needs of another such as bathing, feeding, grooming, and assisting with mobility.  Yes, this is a part of it, but it’s far from all that caregiving encompasses, especially for the family caregiver.

This website’s focus is on the family caregiver as opposed to the professional caregiver, because this person faces a different set of challenges.  This is due to the range of responsibilities and family relationships involved.  Someone who has never assumed the role of family caregiver cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of this special calling.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE FAMILY CAREGIVER

The distinction between a professional caregiver and a family caregiver is vast.  The major and most obvious differences are that professional caregivers are paid, have scheduled hours with vacation time and sick days, plus they receive extensive training.   The lists below relate to the personal impact, responsibilities, and emotional toll on a family caregiver.

PERSONAL IMPACT:

  • They are usually unpaid
  • They are expected to be available 24/7/365
  • They may have been thrust into this role with little or no medical training
  • They face uncertainties, challenges, and worries with little recognition or appreciation
  • They make sacrifices in their own life:  time, money, rest, recreation, job, family, health, and nutrition
  • They often bear the brunt of responsibility with little help from others
  • They feel the impact of strained relationships within the family

RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • They are the person’s primary advocate and liaison
  • They attend to the physical needs of the patient:  lifting, bathing, dressing, feeding, laundry, etc.
  • They often must handle finances and other legal or informal paperwork
  • They may be responsible for yard work, shopping, and housecleaning, or for hiring someone to do it
  • They set up and manage appointments
  • They provide, or arrange for, transportation
  • They maintain a safe environment, making special accommodations when necessary
  • They must learn about the illness or disability, and be alert to changes
  • They must understand, administer, and order medications
  • They need good listening and communication skills
  • They are the peacemaker or counselor when their loved one is upset
  • They are often the eyes and ears for their charge

EMOTIONAL TOLL:

  • They must deal with their own emotions as they watch a loved one struggle or decline
  • They may feel lonely or depressed under the weight of responsibility
  • They mourn the loss of the person they once knew, or had hoped they would be, who is now dependent on them for so many things
  • They deal with the emotions of other family members
  • Saying “I quit!” is probably not  an option

SUMMARY

In short, family caregiving can be overwhelming and stressful!  However, don’t get discouraged.  Let me assure you that you’ll discover many blessings and rewards along the way, as we’ll discuss in future posts.

I understand what you’re facing, and I have the utmost respect and admiration for you.   Be proud of yourself for stepping up to the challenge!

As with anything, if you are to stand strong, you must have a firm foundation.  You will need to do some soul searching to understand your core beliefs and how they affect your perspective on life.   This will determine whether you find this calling to be a burden or a blessing.  Why is this so important?  Because  your perspective becomes your reality.


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