Over the weekend, I had an unpleasant experience that led me to research this topic. Quite a different topic because my focus has always been on patients not their carers. But, I was moved to do it and I welcome anyone who cares for others to read this, especially if you provide home care for someone with a visual impairment or you are an eye care professional.
Imagine that you provide home care services to a man who is blind. You see him coming down the stairs on his own, and you rush to give him a hand. He pushes you aside and screams at you, telling you to leave him alone that he can come down the stairs by himself. How would you feel?
Supposing you are an eye care professional, and your patient is a female office worker who has presbyopia and experiences severe eyestrain while using the computer. Due to the nature of her work, you recommend anti-blue progressive lenses to her. However, she is bent on taking clear bifocal lenses because they are cheaper. You know that she will not get maximum relief with plain bifocals and you want the best outcome for her. So, you try so hard to convince her to take the anti-blue lenses. Then, she gets angry, accuses you of trying to rip her off and leaves the clinic. How would you feel?
Well, some people can experience these and move on without giving them a thought. However, if you are an emotional person, you may feel bad. You may find yourself playing the scenario over and over in your head, and that can even worsen your feelings.
Incidentally, attention is usually on the person receiving the care and not the carer. So people don’t often talk about the carer’s feelings and wellbeing. As someone who cares for others, you need to know this.
Caring too much for others can hurt you. Pushing too hard to influence others can cause you pain. Your efforts may not be valued, or they may be misinterpreted, and you may be left alone to deal with your pain because as a carer, you are expected to be stronger or more accommodating.
Now you know this, what can you do to avoid hurting yourself while caring for people? Here are some tips.
Let go of the hurt
There is a saying that “hurting people hurt others”. So, if you are hurt, you need to let go so that you do not go around hurting people that have no idea what transpired between you and the person. One strategy that works for me when I am feeling bad is reading and trying to find solutions. That is how this post came about in the first place. I was reading and then decided to summarize what I learnt and share. Another thing I do is distract myself from the negative thoughts until I have calmed down. I either invest all my energy into work or go for a workout.
Understand that you are not the saviour of the world
Only Jesus is the saviour of the world. You were created for a purpose, and your focus should be to live that purpose. It is not to get others to live it. People have their preferences, which may be different from with yours. So make your recommendations to people and move on. If your recommendations are accepted, that will be great. If they aren’t, you should also be okay with that. As long as you are living your purpose, there are people you are meant to serve. When you meet them, they will accept your recommendations.
Learn to set and keep boundaries
Decide ahead what you will do and what you will not do for people. No matter how passionate you are about something, learn to exercise restraint. Offer support, don’t do the main work. Do not overstep the boundaries you or the person has set. Don’t think that because the person is a friend or family member, he or she will understand. There is a saying that “a prophet is not recognized in his home”. So, keep boundaries irrespective of who you are helping.
Prioritize self care
If you are caring for a visually impaired person or other vulnerable people like children, you may find yourself always putting their needs before yours. There is a reason why the flight attendant, during the safety demonstrations in aeroplanes always says you should put on your mask before helping your children or other people. If you don’t put on your mask before helping others, you can lose consciousness due to lack of oxygen. So, you can only care for people when you are okay. If you keep putting their needs before yours, you are going to break down one day, and in that state, you won’t be able to help them again. Eat when you should eat, exercise and rest when you should. Do not forgo these things because of the people you are helping. Also, allow them to do some things by themselves, even if they can’t do it well.
Train your mind to care less about what people say or do
You can only influence people; you can’t control them. Pushing too hard may look like you are trying to control them. If the patient wants bifocals instead of progressives, give her the information she needs to make a decision and let her decide. If she insists on bifocals, give them to her. If they don’t serve her, she will come back for the progressives. So, focus on your focus and allow people to learn from their mistakes. This is the hardest part of it all, but I believe that with conscious effort, it can be done.