QUESTION: I keep hearing that caregivers need to create “personal boundaries.” I haven’t a clue what that phrase means. Can you help? – Linda L.
DEAR LINDA: It’s a bit ironic—just a bit—that you have to ask. When caregivers struggle, it’s often exactly because we don’t have clearly defined boundaries that allow us to satisfy our own needs and desires while meeting those of another. To be effective, compassionate caregivers, we must learn to conserve our resources and energy. In doing so, we protect ourselves from feelings of resentment, anger and fatigue. The best way to determine your personal boundaries is to assess your needs. How much alone time do you require daily to renew and refresh yourself? How much support do you need to complete the necessary caregiving tasks? If someone in your care tends to be abusive, where do you draw the line? Each one of us has mental, physical, spiritual and emotional needs. When these needs are met, we feel whole. Take time to list specific steps under each of these four areas as to how you will approach your caregiving and, at the same time, have your needs met. Once your personal boundaries come into focus, you can create a comprehensive plan that allows you to care for another with gentleness and patience.
Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© (www.compassionfatigue.org), the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.com or Amazon.com.