In a book by Gail Shehey titled, Passages in Caregiving, she brings up an excellent point. I had seen this phenomenon in my caregiving journey, and I feel it can happen to anyone who is caregiving for any real length of time. It is called the Messiah Complex. We are caregivers, and we have been from the start. We have been doing a great job, and we have been in on the diagnosis and treatments. We have talked to doctors and specialists. We have tasks to carry out, and we do a great job, we have medications to give out and watch for side effects, we have home therapy to carry out with our loved one. We run a tight ship, and because of us our loved one is doing as well or even better than expected. Our loved one becomes more and more dependent on us, and we become more and more confident and feeling pretty significant.
Burn Out Prevention
This is a formula for burn out. No one can carry the responsibility of being a messiah and no one should. We are humans, and we have weaknesses, and we can wear out mentally, physically and emotionally. We need breaks on a regular basis. They don’t always have to be long breaks, but truthfully sometimes we need a real break for a weekend or even a week to regroup and become creative again. Yes, creative. More on this later. The more our loved ones become dependent on us, the harder it is for them to be without us. It can cause anxiety for them and us. A break is not much of a break if we are worried about our loved one or worse, feeling guilty for having left them. So how do we manage a break that feels like a break?
You Are More Creative Than You Think
This is when we get creative. If you are a new caregiver, start now! If you are a caregiver that has already felt the burnout, it’s crucial to begin soon to ease out of your messiah role. Start immediately looking for people to help with care. Involve other family members or friends in staying with your loved one while you go to the store or have coffee with friends. Talk with your loved one about why you need to get away and that you have needs too. You may need to be creative in how you present your needs to your loved one, so they are understanding or at least accepting. Watching for anxiety in your loved one and developing ways to help them cope with small changes can help you and them to handle the big things easier. You are more creative than you think and you have been creative in many ways already I feel sure.
Be Kind To Yourself
Never forget you are essential, but keep your significance in perspective. Notice when you feel anxiety and seek ways to relieve your tension in healthy habits. Walking and fresh air can go a long way while your loved one is napping, to help you gain perspective and clear your head. You are kind to your loved one, be kind to yourself too.