By time, indeed, mankind is in loss, except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds, and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience. (Surah al-Asr)
We are doing a righteous deed alhamdulillah. Caring for our parents is one of the best deeds that we can perform in Islam, in addition to the obligatory acts. But caring for a loved one can be very time-consuming, as well as self-consuming.
As caregivers, our day is not ours alone. We are responsible for the needs of our loved one who may need constant assistance. This surah, alhamdulillah, is such a mercy when thinking about how many things we would like to get done in a day versus what actually gets accomplished.
Sometimes, even when we can get a moment for ourselves, there is so much that needs to be done that it can become overwhelming. Overwhelm leads to stress and anxiety, and for most people it can cause us to shut down. Caregiver fatigue is real and it's not always from running errands inside and outside of the home; sometimes, it's from all of the thoughts in our head...things that we need to get done, should get done, forgot to get done, want to get done, may not get done. Even when our feet stop, our brain doesn't.
So how can we take more control over our day, allowing us to give great care to our loved ones while also addressing our own needs? There are several steps that we can to take to accomplish this. Here are a few:
Write one main goal that is important for you to achieve. What is it that you want to accomplish that is not getting done? Why is it important? How will it help your current situation and that of your loved one?
Tally up how much time your tasks take each day. This can help you discover available time blocks insha Allah. Are there times where you can do something for yourself while your loved one is occupied elsewhere? For example, taking advantage of the time that your loved one is in the restroom, taking a nap, eating, reading, etc. It may not seem like much, but we can learn to become very efficient within these small blocks of time.
Ask for help. Sometimes, as caregivers, this is such a hard thing to do. We are used to doing it all, and perhaps believe we are supposed to. This is far from the case! Who can you ask to share some time with your loved one so that you have space to work on your goals, get some things done, or just get some sleep? Is there a family member, friend, or even a neighbor who will visit with your loved one? Another option is respite care. There are facilities that will care for your loved one for a few hours, over a day, or several days so that you can take a break, travel, etc.
Get your loved one involved. What are their hobbies? Who are the people they like to be around? Who can you suggest that they call and catch up with? What small tasks can they do on their own, for themselves or for you? My mom folds small items of clothing out of the dryer and she writes our grocery list. Alhamdulillah she feels useful and my mind is available to focus on something else that needs to be done.
Set boundaries. Are you spending all day with your loved one, even when they don't need anything? Are you hanging around "just in case?" Or in the same room so much that they are upset or confused when you leave? Doing these things can set up a pattern of dependence and take away from the free time that you have to do other things. When care is not necessary, take care of your own needs. Schedule bonding time as opposed to giving it constantly. When my mom moved in with me, I was always with her. First, because she needed so much care; and second, because I was so happy to have her with me. The worry of her being in another state was gone, and I really enjoy her company. But I have things to do, so I had to set time boundaries and it worked out well alhamdulillah...eventually. First there was guilt. Now we both function better because she uses the time I'm away to read, make calls, etc.
Be patient. Caring for our loved ones is one of the best good deeds that we can perform alhamdulillah. And caregiving is a constantly evolving process based upon changes to your experience and knowledge, as well as the needs of your loved one. It's a journey, a relationship that tests us in many ways and helps us to achieve self-growth in ways that we never thought possible. We will discuss this is our next blog post bi'ithnillah.
We are all in the right place at the right time. We are just where our Lord azza wa jal placed us alhamdulillah. Previously, we spoke about perspective, and the blessing of having a positive outlook on caregiving. I was accused of "spiritual bypassing." (More on that in another post.) But what she meant was that she believes I'm using my "spirituality" to avoid facing unresolved issues. And this is far from the case.
My goal with this blog is to create healthy and whole caregivers who see and experience the beauty of the huge task we have taken on, because it is only by approaching caregiving from this perspective that we can make this process a success for us and our loved one. There are enough places online where you can gripe, rant, accuse, resent, rage, and have all of that accepted and acknowledged. Here, we will acknowledge the good, what can be improved up, and take steps toward success...together bi'ithnillah.
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Thanks for reading!