Family caregivers are hard-wired problem solvers and sometimes learning when to say no is one of the hardest tasks of caring for aging parents. Learning to set boundaries and not feeling guilty about those boundaries is an important part of managing caregiver stress.
However, when caregivers are unable to set reasonable boundaries, they may feel overwhelmed. Such feelings only increase stress and can create physical, mental, and emotional problems for caregivers.
Here are a few things to remember about setting boundaries:
- You have every right to say no. Many people struggle with saying no in even the most mundane situations. They may believe that putting their personal needs ahead of sick, infirm, or disabled loved ones is simply too selfish. However, if a caregiver takes a step back there may be many instances in which saying no is reasonable.
- Saying no doesn’t mean saying never. Just because you are incapable or unwilling to satisfy a want or a need at a given moment, that doesn’t mean that you never intend to satisfy that want or need. We all want our loved ones to feel happy and content, but sometimes we need to ask them for patience and understanding.
- Your needs are important, too. Family caregivers often get so used to sacrifice that it becomes second nature to ignore their own personal needs and feelings. Find time every day to take stock of where you are emotionally and physically; then figure out to what extent you can attend to the needs of others. It’s a balancing act, but you need to figure out which of your loved one’s needs are most essential and which of your own needs require attention, and then allot appropriate time for each.
Caregiver stress is a significant impediment to happiness and well-being. Learn to assess when to say no and then give yourself the permission say no. Also, resources are available through organization such as Area Agency on Aging.