Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, speaks volumes of wisdom to us in daily life and is especially important for us as we maneuver life when taking on caregiving responsibilities. When we find ourselves taking care of others, particularly aging parents, who once changed our diapers, challenges arise. If we are taking care of parents and siblings and or young children, it is like burning the candle on both ends and in the middle. Financial, emotional, spiritual, and physical matters arise. The logistics are huge. So many decisions to make. Each of the agreements (in italics below) provides concepts that can help us love who we are amid the challenges of caregiving.
Be impeccable with your word, as we speak our truth in all situations, can help allow us to maintain balance. Taking on caregiving responsibilities is major, often life-altering, particularly when we also must take on additional tasks and financial obligations. Many seniors want to spend their final years in their homes. When children or other relatives need to step in and take care of our seniors, we must pace ourselves, and should not promise to do something we cannot deliver. Sometimes we promise to keep our loved one at home, but if that becomes impossible because of the level of care, we may need to place our loved one in a care facility, unless we have a large family who can assist. Being an only child and caring for elder parents can be hard. If our children need support, we have to prioritize how we spend our energy.
Don’t take anything personally gives us the freedom to seek balance as we engage in caregiving for others in need. Sometimes caregiving may feel like a thankless task. With little ones and seniors, the need and time commitment is like a never-ending story. Until the children are old enough to fend for themselves and understand safety, we have to be vigilant and ever watchful, so that children do not hurt themselves. Seniors in our care may seem impossible because of the constant demands and depending upon their level of pain and cognitive awareness, their care may be even more difficult. Doing self-care may seem impossible: not be enough time. We must choose to take time for ourselves.
Don’t make assumptions is a critical rule for any relationship, and is critical in caregiving. If we think about giving care as a sacrifice, it is easy for our intentions to be a gift, to become resentment. We cannot assume we can navigate all of the issues and relationships when caregiving. In caring for seniors, it important to know and let go of any unresolved issues from the past. Assumptions can distort our reality. We cannot assume the needs of others and that all needed resources will be available. We may need professional support.
Always do your best is a good rule to follow. When we bring our best selves, we bring love and care—freedom, appreciation, and empathy. We review the needs of everyone, create a community of support so that we can help others without being compromised. By doing our best, we do not over-commit. We can take time for fun and for varying our routine, when possible. We also want to take into consideration the feelings and needs of those entrusted to our care. If they can respond, it is important to ask them about their needs and let them do as much as they can for themselves, so they feel empowered.