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Knowing About High Blood Pressure

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Dear Dr. Levister: My father is terminally ill. Years ago he abandoned our family. With nowhere to go, I reluctantly became his caregiver. Lately I have been plagued with feelings of guilt, headaches, insomnia, and crying spells. Have I fallen into an emotional minefield?
K.W.

Dear K.W.

Now that you have made the decision to care for your ailing parent, despite your estranged past, chances are you’ve overlooked the most important thing you can do - both for yourself and your parent - care for yourself.

Your parent's care can easily consume an ever-expanding part of your life. It may begin with a few phone calls here; some visits there, questions for doctors and lawyers.

Then, more visits. More worrying. More phone calls. Before you know it - and sometimes without you even realizing it - you are too busy for friends, distant from your spouse, distracted at work, sleepy and tired of being tired.

You need to use all the help that is available, decide how much you are able to give, and then accept that there are limits to what you or anyone else can do in this situation. Gain some perspective, pace yourself and curb you instinct to want to "fix" everything. If there were such a thing as Caregivers Anonymous, the first step in the program would be get rid of that little voice inside you that says, I can do it all, I am responsible for everything, and whatever I do, it's never enough.

Here are some tips to help you stay afloat: Set limits; As hard as this is, you may be surprised to discover that setting some limits will relieve your guilt and ease some tension. Take a realistic look at the situation and draw some boundaries. Examine your motivation; Why are you helping your parent. Do you view your parent’s care as a burden or what you choose to do?

Accept and enlist help; Limit what you do by getting others involved as soon as possible. If a neighbor, sibling or friend offers to lend a hand, say yes. Learn to say no; Convince yourself that saying no to certain requests is not only okay, but healthy. Practice saying no.

Be fair but firm in your resolve. Therapy can be helpful in sorting out feelings of anger and betrayal. Only you can create the right balance for yourself. Make lemonade out of lemons. Find ways to turn this crisis into a win - win.

Dr. Levister welcomes reader mail concerning their body but regrets that he is not able to answer individual letters. Your letters will be incorporated into the column as space permits. You may direct your letters to Dr. Levister in care of Black Voice News, P.O. Box 1581, Riverside, CA 92502. For more information about your Black health visit African American Health Network at www.aahn.com.

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