Most carers have a care plan for those they are caring for. It may be an informal plan, existing only as a kind of fuzzy collection of 'must do' and 'must remember not to...' postit notes in the brain. But they have a plan.
And that's good news because caring for someone takes an enormous amount of effort, of strength and of patience, so creating a care plan is a good way of keeping things running well. At least, as well as they can.
But whether you have a complex ten page Excel spreadsheet detailing every facet of your loved one's needs and requirements or just a vague determination to do your best for them, you have taken the first and possibly most vital steps to ensuring their safety and well-being for as long as they remain in your charge.
But most carers do not realize that there is another person that also needs a care plan. They, themselves. You.
At first, you might question the need for a care plan for yourself - after all you are the carer, why do you need a care plan for yourself?
There are a number of reasons.
1. It is admirable that you put your loved one before yourself in all things but unless you look after yourself, you will not be there to look after them. Simple.
2. The caring role generally is a degenerative one, in that the amount of care you are required to provide tends to increase - at your expense! As the demands of your loved one increases the demands on your time and your inner strength are also going to increase. Where will the extra time come from? From your own 'free' time.
3. Initially you will balance all of your commitments - family, friends, recreation, exercise, interests, caring. But as time goes by, you will be at great risk of becoming more isolated; more exhausted; more burnt out. Friends will drop off, your world will contract and you will end up defining your life, your very existence as 'Carer'. You will abandon everything in your life that does not directly support that role.
4. One day your caring role will end. You might not like to think about that now but now is the best time. At the end of your caring role what exactly will be left if your only self image is one of Carer?
A care plan for yourself can help to mitigate some of these problems. It can take into account the changes that will ultimately occur while ensuring that you retain at least some small piece of your new reality for yourself. (That's actually what StayingMe is all about).
And creating a care plan for yourself is not selfish. Quite apart from the fact that by looking after yourself you will be in a much better position to look after your loved one, it is also something that you deserve. Yes, you deserve to have a little life for yourself too.
Stay tuned for more on your care plan - there's much more to come...