10 Ways to Care For Yourself When Caring For Loved Ones

11 Self-Care Techniques for Caregivers

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Emotional Well-being Self-healing

Are you part of what’s referred to as The Sandwich Generation? I truly despise lumping people into “demographics” because it’s so limiting. But—if you are hovering somewhere between 40 and 60, give or take 5 years, you might very well  be caring for an elderly parent and also raising a child.  “Sandwiched” people are often responsible for helping loved ones with everything from their daily functioning and/or medical issues to aiding with financial and legal difficulties. Even if you are not in this sandwich demographic, you may still be a caregiver in a unique way — you may be a parent of a child with special needs, a spouse of a wounded veteran, or someone with a chronic condition who is also caring for a family member.  No matter what your current circumstances, you will most likely be in a caregiver role at some point in your life.

While caring for our loved ones can be one of the most meaningful, uplifting acts we do, it can also be physically exhausting and emotionally draining, especially if you’re juggling it with a job or other responsibilities. In addition, being a caregiver can negatively impact your financial status, your personal time, your career, and even your health.  In fact, older caregivers have a higher risk of significant health problems, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, overweight, and earlier death due to the prolonged stress and the demands of caregiving.  

The risks associated with caregiving can affect both men and women, but women are typically the primary caregivers and thus are ones who are most affected.  And, caregiver women are the least likely to seek support for themselves when they need it most.

Being Selfish Benefits Your Loved Ones

Many caregivers think that taking time for themselves to rest or have fun with their friends makes them selfish because there is someone who needs them 24/7.  This is absolutely not the case! Caring for yourself is the most important—and often the most forgotten—thing you can do as a caregiver. There is a reason why the flight attendants tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before assisting someone else! When your needs are taken care of, then the person you are caring for will benefit too. In other words, the care you give to yourself is the care you give to your loved ones.

I want you to give yourself permission right now to care for yourself every day, especially when you are caring for a loved one.  And, the every day part is key. It does you no good to work yourself to the bone caring for others for weeks and months on end and then you end up getting sick yourself.  Caring for yourself daily is the only way you are going to be able to care for your loved ones in the long run.

Here are some ways you can take care of yourself on a daily basis:

  1. Take Regular Breaks. During the day, be sure to take 20-30 minute breaks at least once or twice. If you are caring for someone that is in need of 24-hour care, make arrangements for someone to relieve you of your duties.  This can be another family member, a friend, a volunteer, or a professional caregiver.  You may need to take a full day off or even a short vacation if you are caring for someone with a long-term illness.  Whatever time off you give yourself, be sure to stay away and do something you enjoy – read a good book, take a nap or an Epsom salt bath, or go to a movie.  Also, during your breaks, try to engage in conversations about things other than your caregiver duties.
  1. Get Some Exercise. I know this sounds like the last thing you want to do when you feel drained, but it is one of the best things you can do for yourself. You don’t have to run a marathon.  Aim for 20-30 minutes of exercise at least three times per week. You can schedule this with a friend so you won’t cancel. If you can exercise outside, that’s even better. The fresh air and sun on your face will energize you.  If the weather is not good, schedule an exercise class and put it in your calendar so you commit to going.  Many fitness and yoga studios have apps where you can book online and the fee is automatically charged to your account, which makes it less likely you will cancel at the last minute.  Unless you maintain a high level of fitness and are in good health, try not to engage in strenuous exercise while you are feeling stressed.  Instead, try something that will make you feel more relaxed, such as Tai Chi, yoga, walking, or dancing.
  1. Eat A Balanced Diet: It’s easy to get into the fast food rut when you are busy and stressed. But, eating whole, nutritious food is one of the best ways to maintain your health and energy. You will feel the difference in your body immediately when you substitute sugar and processed foods with a delicious smoothie, soup, or steamed vegetables and lean protein.  And, there are many great resources online for preparing quick and healthy meals.  No matter how many people you are cooking for, prepare extra food and freeze it.  That way, you have some quick meals on hand for when you really feel too tired to make the extra effort to cook.
  1. Don’t Neglect Your Own Health. Many caregivers neglect their health and end up getting sick or injured. If you feel you are run-down or catching a virus, it’s best to rest.  Plus, you don’t want to risk spreading something contagious to the loved one you are caring for.  Also, learn the proper techniques for assisting your loved one from bed or a wheelchair. If you injure yourself, get the proper care and ask someone to take over any physical duties that may impede your recovery.
  1. Let Love Flow. You have an electromagnetic field around your heart that is 5,000 times bigger than your EEG field. That means your heart is really in control, even though your mind thinks it is.  So, take some time to quiet your mind.  Sit still and breathe deeply.  Imagine opening a gate to your heart and letting love flow both ways –to your loved one and back to you. You can do this whenever you feel like things are moving too quickly or you are feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities as a caregiver.
  1. Indulge Yourself: Sometimes we need a treat to remind ourselves that we are wired to feel joy. I encourage you to treat yourself to a pedicure, a massage, a special dinner out with friends or whatever makes you feel joy.  Be sure to reward yourself regularly for the wonderful care you are providing to your loved one. Release any guilt you have about wanting to feel joy.  It’s your birthright!
  1. Get Enough Sleep. When we have more to do, sleep is often where we compromise. When you are a caregiver, you may find yourself feeling exhausted at the end of the day and yet unable to sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep – and I mean 7-9 hours each night – is not only necessary in order for you to take care of yourself, it is also necessary in terms of the quality of care you give your loved one. First, schedule your sleep time so that you go to sleep and wake at the same time each day. Try to develop a good sleep routine. Take a warm bath or read a book before going to bed.  Don’t watch TV or use social media before going to sleep.  And of course, make sure you don’t eat a huge meal or consume alcohol or caffeine before bed.  Finally, make sure your room is dark, quiet and cool.  If there are nights when you know sleep will be interrupted, sleep when you can.  Take cat naps during the day or go to bed earlier if you know you will need to get up in the middle of the night.
  1. Stay Connected With Friends. Caregivers can sometimes isolate themselves from their friends. Even though you may feel tired or sad at times, it’s important to stay connected to friends who support you. Having a support network is scientifically proven to improve your outlook and your health.  That’s because, when you connect with friends, your brain produces oxytocin—a hormone that calms your nerves and prevents surges in stress hormones. Even if you can’t get out with friends every day, take time to send e-mail or phone friends to catch up.
  1. Laugh Often. It’s important to hang onto your sense of humor when your days are otherwise pretty intense. To get your daily dose of humor, read something funny or watch a funny movie. Social media is great for getting some daily humor – you can watch funny videos on Facebook, or look at cute animals doing funny things on Pinterest. In addition, try looking for some levity in your situation and maybe even share some of that humor with the loved one you are caring for. Laughter really is the best medicine.
  1. Watch For Signs Of Burnout. Many caregivers delay asking for help and support because they feel that they should be able to care for their loved ones on their own. Everyone needs help and support, especially when caring for sick or elderly loved ones.  Some signs of burnout include feeling like you are on an emotional rollercoaster, getting sick often, not being able to find time to care for yourself, feeling numb or over-reacting to things that others say and do, or not remembering the last time you went out or did something fun.   If this describes you, start with any one of my suggestions for caring for yourself.  If you feel you need professional support, there are many caregiver resources available, such as the Family Caregiver Alliance and the Caregiver Action Network (CAN) where you can find support.  You may also want to speak to your, or your loved one’s, church, synagogue or community leaders.

If you are a caregiver, what are some of the ways you take care of yourself?  Please share your thoughts with me. 

And be sure to sign up for my newsletter for more great articles and tips!

 

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

Comments

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  1. Jack Edwards
    1 year ago

    In your article you say get someone in to take care of the person you are caregiver for like you just pick up the phone and they magically appear. That would be nice but it’s not the real world for most caregivers. Medicare and Medicaid won’t pay for respite care and most older folks don’t have a money tree

  2. Janine
    2 years ago

    This is really great, and filled with some wonderfully useful reminders. The thing about friends, while it really is so important to not isolate yourself, is that is OK to be a bit selective. There are those who are pretty negative about my situation, and all too quick to commiserate – when I’m working to remain optimistic and don’t especially feel like wallowing. So choose wisely. If someone leaves you feeling diminished or further depleted, backing away is a great kindness to yourself.

  3. kathleen
    2 years ago

    I unplugged one evening a week. No tv, phone, etc. It restored and recharged me. I continued this even after the death of caring for my dad. unplug for a free vacation from it all!

  4. Jotishna
    2 years ago

    I clearly was meant to read this. I’m 28 years old caring for my 56 year old mom who was diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer about 7 months ago.. Boy oh boy did my life and my families lives ever change! I feel blessed that my job laid me off at the right time so I could be there for my mom, I have amazing family members who support me but as the year is coming to an end my energy tank is sooo low. I booked a vacation for myself for the new year but a part of me feels sooo guilty going but I know I need this recharge. Most importantly my mom is really pushing me to go on this trip, she is buying me stuff, telling me to exercise, meditate and do things for myself etc. I guess she is realizing that life is truly very short and the life we have on this planet earth we should make it our best and truly take care of ourselves first so we can then be there for others. If one thing I can say I learned and am still learning it is that self love has to start from the moment your are born and it has to continue till you take your last breath. I pray that all caregivers including myself find light and love. Dr Christian Northrup I thank you so much for writing posts it has helped me so much but it it also helps my mom. Love you and I look forward to meeting you one day 🙂

  5. Lisa
    2 years ago

    I care for my mentally disabled older brother. Sometimes I burn incense or a candle. Scents can be soothing and it makes a rest time feel sacred. My brother makes some noises that are annoying. I keep a box fan near my bed for the white noise so he doesn’t disturb my sleep yet I will hear him if he gets out of bed. I buy a lot of fresh foods that are easy and quick and don’t require a lot of cleanup after cooking. I play the piano, paint, look at art on pinterest…there are a lot of ways to get short emotional and mental breaks throughout the day. Some days when I’m super drained, I give him an extra big hug and it makes us both feel better. Thanks for this reminder. It is so important.

  6. Sarah Kelly
    2 years ago

    My emotional health is damaged beyond repair. I’ve had no support in the sole care of my mother bringing her over from England to Canada to look after her 7years ago. My husband was not emotionally supportive to me and my young aged children already lost me over half the time to working 12 hour shifts, half of them being night shifts. I had a struggle with my coping with the stress from work (I’m a nurse on a ward with unsafe workload demands) and then during my bouts of depression, I had rage issues due to my husband forever minimizinge and making my functioning life more arduous. We’re now separated (over 1 1/2 years ago ) and the strain of not working due to stress, failure and total disrespect from my kids (20, 18 and two of 16) with reinforcement from my ex is all consuming. My mother has just been placed in a long term residence and forgets how often and regularly I visit. I can’t even face going everyday. No reason.Just full of guilt and no respect even for myself. This is more than depression. This feels like a life sentence because I know I’ll feel guilty for failing someone at some level for everything that’s wrong and not worked out. I miss my mum, my kids (only 1 girl who demands her own way 24/7 lives with me) I feel like I’ll never be free of sadness and guilt for disappointing and failing everyone
    I have medical and physician help. But no other support. I have no family here ( my selfish brother doesn’t help but cautioned me not to take Mum’s money when he found out I was recently separated.) He’s never helped. He’s always been 100 %negative and accusitory to me. I just feel like I’ll never be happy again

  7. Christine Dever
    2 years ago

    I assisted my mother care for my father for six months at their home in his early stages of Alzheimer’s and then being there for him as my family were for the next four and a half years when he was diagnosed with dementia and living in a nearby nursing home, The toll on my mother and myself became evident mid dads nursing home care.
    When i returned to my home and partner in the country and resumed work, six months on I was diagnosed with breast cancer, then mum had tests and also diagnosed. Stress played such a part in our lives, and through this experience and in recovery I have learnt to support the recommendations of self care. I have written an account of the many faceted challenges and achievements journeying through life’s situations beginning with my school days with a dose of humour, I hope to provide support and skills to help those travelling along this road. “Everyone’s Got A Suitcase’ by Christine Elizabeth Dever is on Amazon.com

  8. Angel
    2 years ago

    I am feeling so frustrated right now. My mom has Stage IV Breast Cancer of the Bone. She is now living with me, my 5 young children, and my husband. Her tumors are manifesting on her spine and putting pressure on her nerves. She’s lost a lot of strength in her lower body and deals with almost constant nerve pain. She has done well over the past 1 1/2 years using natural means of dealing with the cancer, but it’s gotten to the point where she can no longer care for herself and the natural means do nothing for her pain. She needs to urinate almost every hour but refuses to get a catheter, instead getting up (with assistance) every hour to go to the bathroom. This means that I get, on average, of 40 minutes of sleep every hour through the night. She claims that her pain is “under control” as long as she doesn’t move (but it’s clearly not), never mind her constant getting up to urinate (11 times in a 12 hour period). I spend my days mixing and making all of these natural remedies for her, helping her go to the bathroom, and making food/smoothies for her. She “doesn’t like” any of the nurses that come to our home and I’m seriously at the end of my rope. My kids feel neglected and tired of being inside all day long, I’ve been sick for 3 weeks now–catching every single illness floating around–and I’m tired. How would you approach this situation?

  9. Debbie Proulx
    2 years ago

    I am 44 years old and am taking care of my 87 year old mother who is wheelchair bound. I am unattached and my only child is grown and married. Thought I was the best cannadate out of my many siblings to take care of mom. I love my mother but find myself more times than not in very demanding situations with mom. Mom was a foster parent and had 6 biological children of her own. The bios do nothing to help her, I am the eldest of the “foster kids” and feel an obligation to take care of her. My issue is that mom can be very demanding, verbaly, emotionally, abusive and draining. I feel very unappreciated and feel she treats me as if I’m 87. I am not “allowed” to go out and visit with friends, meet people or take time off for me. If I do get a chance to do any of those things and it is far and few, once in a blue moon situation I am greeted with repercussions when I get back (how dare I take time for me). I feel mom is jelious, enveious of the fact that I can leave on my own, that I have friends and someone who is interested in me so therefore takes out her anger on me. I cook and clean for her, bath and dreaa her, take care of her dogs, take her to her numerous Dr appointments, there are times when I don’t feel I have time to just breath. I also get depressed often. I’m told “you are here to help me.” Yes, key word “help” not be your slave. Its MOM you don’t talk back and you can’t defend yourself with my mom, she won’t let you. She takes late naps and wakes up thinking its the next day, morning and not dinner time, calls everyone else to find out what time it is because she doesnt believe ME. My sblings say if she 24 hour care like that then she needs to go to a home. Mom wont go to a home and i still feel its my duty to take care of her. I didnt realizr that taking care of mom was going to be at the expence of my own freedom. I cant even go 4 houses down to my brothers for a few hours without her panicing about when im going to be back, “what if i fall or something?” Im asked, “well mom you havr life alert,use it.” I know its “smart talk” buti just can’t help it at times. She has run everybody away that has tried to help her, I’m the last, if I don’t stay she his to a home.

  10. Liz
    2 years ago

    Thank you for this. Years ago I “inherited” 6 children and my Mom and me started taking care of them. I was taking care of my Mom-she was put in a wheelchair and had other medical problems, but we took this responsibility together. A few years ago, Mom went to heaven. I have been in survival mode so long that I do forget to take care of me.–Thank you for this very important reminder.

  11. Melissa L.
    2 years ago

    Reminders abound for caregivers to take care of themselves, but it is so much easier said than done. Balance is ever-fleeting. There are always household and motherly tasks waiting….ever waiting….. Self care? It has become a luxury. But I don’t ever forget it as a goal. What I think is more important than “remembering” to take care of me is to not dwell in guilt if I can’t do so. I’ve had to make peace with my reality, so guilt doesn’t become my companion. That means acknowledging that life isn’t often fair, when it doles out difficult circumstances. I choose, every day, sometimes multiple times a day, to do what is best for my son, even if it means I don’t get the luxury of indulging desires. I have a safe home for him to be in, clothes on our backs, food in the pantry, and a son who is healthy, beyond his cerebral palsy. Life is good, even through the difficulties, even through the tears, life is good.

    1. Anne
      2 years ago

      I feel this. It’s too hard to keep things balanced. I just can’t keep up with all the demands. My life is no longer mine…and I’m single! I can’t imagine my life with a husband and kids! I’m drained. Depression and anxiety are now an added battle. Makes things even harder. Watching and caring for my elderly mother going through chem, radiation, wanting to die…losing her mobility…had to sell her house….the list goes on. I have 2 lives…and I have many uncertainties in my own life to battle with. I’m tired of always having to figure something out.

      All those things on the self care list are goals that don’t get met often enough.

    2. Anne
      2 years ago

      I feel this. It’s too hard to keep things balanced. I just can’t keep up with all the demands. My life is no longer mine…and I’m single! I can’t imagine my life with a husband and kids! I’m drained. Depression and anxiety are now an added battle. Makes things even harder. Watching and caring for my elderly mother going through chem, radiation, wanting to die…losing her mobility…had to sell her house….the list goes on. I have 2 lives…and I have many uncertainties in my own life to battle with. I’m tired of always having to figure something out.

      All those things on the self care list are goals that don’t get met often enough.

      But make no mistake…I shut myself off from everyone and everything to rest. Maybe it’s more like hiding! But I don’t feel guilty for it. I try to leave at least one day a week with no appointments or commitments or if something needs to be done, I’ll do it early in the day so I can take the test of the day off. Quite often my mantra is ” I have only one thing to do.” That one thing is the task I’m actually doing…not the other copious amounts of things I still have to do.

  12. Marilyn
    2 years ago

    Every week I put a carrot in front of my nose…something I plan to do on the weekend with friends that I can look forward to. I hire a nurse to care for my mother during that time and leave my guilt at home.

    1. Christiane Northrup
      2 years ago

      You are a rock star!! so smart. Bravo!!

  13. JoAnn Wismer
    2 years ago

    It’s not only the cargiving but the daily worry and seeing your loved ones health decline. My mom is in a nursing home since she needs 24 hour care since she is in the late stages of dementia. I worry about her constantly and “could’ve”, and “should’ve” on myself all the time. I spend a lot of time with her at the nursing home and it is emotionally and physically exhausting. Making medical decisions for her is also hard. My sister and I are trying to do our best but who knows what is truly right for someone else?

    I try and take care of myself by getting enough sleep and some exercise but my thoughts are usually elsewhere with mom. Thanks Christine for your article.

    1. Christiane Northrup
      2 years ago

      Are you a mother yourself? I am. And I have to tell you something. No sane mother wants her kids to suffer on account of HER. We just don’t. So– for your own health, assume that your Mom really really wants what is best for YOU. And if she’s in the end stages of dementia, I can tell you from years of experience, she is probably NOT SUFFERING. She is between the worlds. So- turn your thoughts to your own precious self. And let the angels take care of your mother regularly while you go take care of YOU.

  14. Ann
    2 years ago

    I foolishly married a man 21 years my senior after a rocky first marriage that lasted 11 years. I thought this one had it together financially, and he thought I was the best, treated me first class; spending money on me I thought he could afford, but it was to make him look good, I discover later. I stayed even after he made one financial blunder after another thinking it would turn around. I did not want a 2nd divorce. He would not let me manage the money. I worked most of our marriage to support us. When he had money he spent it and failed to prepare for old age. He even told me once that my “job” was to keep him young. I should have left but didn’t listen to my gut. Now, 30 years later, he is 85 and in poor health, we live on social security and have a mortgage on the house from money he borrowed against it, and a car payment. He is still controlling and demanding and I have to take care of him. We have already dipped into my IRA using half of it that I had planned for my retirement. There is no life insurance when he dies, but I have 2 life insurance policies on me that he would benefit from if I were to go first. Some days I feel that could happen, I’m so tired, burnout even though I still look OK I feel so down. Yes, I’m feeling resentful as I see my 60’s slipping away as my 50’s did. I should have ran while I had the chance now I can’t because he can barely walk. He knew what he was doing when he married me, a nurse with a purse. Please warn other women to not marry old men. May/December relationships do not work for the woman. Insecure men like young women; she makes them look successful and virile but they get old very quickly and she will too.

    1. Christiane Northrup
      2 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this. It’s a real eye opener. I think we should all take our clues from Louise Hay. She is 89. And just got a nice 66 year old boyfriend. Go Lulu!!!

      PS– Your situation could turn on a dime. Let us pray!!

      1. Mary Ellen
        2 years ago

        Perhaps I am naive, but do you really have no choice here? With preparation couldn’t a separation be achieved, despite your husband’s poor health? You seem almost enslaved…warning other women is great, but it is sad that you are strong and vital, and not appreciated. God bless you, and send you wisdom and courage, and love.

    2. Roslyn
      2 years ago

      There are some marriages with such age differences that work just fine. Like any marriage, no matter what the age, it’s about the person & their mindset. It’s always Best to talk about & plan for the future prior to marriage. Seems as though that wasn’t done here. It’s not too late to consider You first. He doesn’t have many years remaining and he can live in a nursing home on his social security while you get yourself on course.

  15. Faye Reid
    2 years ago

    Caring for my husband for the last ten years as Alzheimer’s ravages his brain. Thank you for this beautifully written article. Some days are difficult to think of anything other than putting one foot in front of the other and then there are the days when you feel guilty for not feeling guilty about taking time out.

  16. Ellen Bentley
    2 years ago

    Dr. Northrup,
    This posting clarifies many things about my situation as a caregiver for my husband.

    Twice a week I look from the windows of a workout studio onto the back porch of your office — and now, I will have in mind, as I’m sweating my way through a power-circuit, that being there is not selfish, it’s self-care. An important distinction.

    Thanks

  17. Theresa
    2 years ago

    All of these are excellent pieces of advice. But telling caregivers what to do without social support just blames them for not taking care of themselves. I caretake an 87 year old mother with dementia and multiple health issues, and a mentally ill sister who has a diagnosis of severe depression, generalized anxiety disorder and recurrent psychotic episodes. I’m self employed and had an agreement that I’d be able to work full time while caretaking. We have a trust which has been useless and one of our local medical groups, Sutter Davis has been completely negligent assessing the elderly appropriately for their cognitive impairments, they even have been offering to change Alzheimer’s diagnoses to Mild Cognitive Impairment. I lead a group for caregiver’s who are caretaking those with dementia. We teach Validation therapy and help people to accept and face their situation and to process their emotions. But many in our county are stuck due to lack of funding for Adult Day Care and poorly functioning hired caregivers. Do please remember that we can’t always afford to provide ourselves with breaks. When I started this, I could get massages, have therapy and even check myself into a hotel for a night, but now with only 40% of my usual income, I can just walk around the block and it really isn’t enough. If there were more men doing this, I have no question that there would be laws to protect family caregivers. And the statistic that 40% of caregivers dying before the people they are caretaking is now up to 66% according to UC Davis Alzheimer’s Clinic. This is killing a group that is predominately women. And it’s just wrong!

    1. Christiane Northrup
      2 years ago

      I completely agree with you about the lack of infrastructure for CARE in this country. It begins when you have a baby and have to go back to work at 6 weeks. We are the only Western country with no support for caregiving– at ANY STAGE. Thank you for sharing this heart-wrenching information.

  18. Rosa Muziotti
    2 years ago

    Thanks for all these pieces of advice. Women have been taught to care for other people until they are exhausted. Sacrifice is like an honor badge. What a great post!

    1. Abby Hunsberger
      2 years ago

      Rosa, Your sentence “Women have been taught to care for the other people until they are exhausted”, nails it. I became a statistic of emotional depletion and alcohol abuse. Not so much for the need to act as the caregiver, but do to the emotional sadness of watching my loved one slowly die over a slow and painful death. When support is not available to express sadness it became bottled up until the “bottle” was my comfort. Great input to being the recipient of an honor badge, at the cost of losing my health. Thank God help did become available to me and I have been greatly blessed for the New Year!

  19. Rebecca Spath
    2 years ago

    I know YOU know that this article really resonated with me. Thank you so much for writing it and sharing it with the world. I know so many individuals who sacrifice their own wellbeing in the name of care giving to others. Your wisdom and guidance continues to be a gift. Thank you always!!! xoxo

  20. Roberta Maxwell
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much for this gentle and loveving reminder, to care for ourselves while caregiving. I am in the thick of it right now. Seven and a half years ago my sisters husband died unexpectedly while sleeping, she woke to find him no longer with her. She had recently retired and slipped into a fairly substantial depression. Her career defined her. She was married to a brilliant man for 26 years but did not have children. For the most part she was estranged from the rest of the family. Growing up in a highly dysfunction family laced with alcoholism and sexual abuse has a tendency to create divisiveness and deep wounds. Her response was to separate herself, emotionally, physically and spiritually. She is 14 years older than I and was my primary “go to” sybling when I came into this world, at least until I was 3 and she went to work as a young teenage woman. We grew apart over the years, but I knew if I ever needed anything I could call her. Eventually, I moved across the country to Caifornia, as far away from the Midwest as I could get. The year before her husband died I came to visit. It had been 10 years since we had seen each other. When I saw her, I did not recognize her, as she was well over 300 pounds and her body was having problems supporting her. I was shocked, when her husband died I knew the time was coming when she would need assistance. My children we grown, my husband an independent musician and I had a more fluid life decided to move closer. She began having frequently visits to the hospital for a variety of issues. It was decided we would live in her house until we found a place of our own. That was over 5 years ago. The circumstances of her health dictated her living alone was not an option. As a retired executive she is very independent, unwilling to surrender and closed to any alternative thinking or being. I, am the opposite. California schooled me in a very different way of being…I am all alternative, very unconventional. The primary issue that happens as an empathic caregiver is loosing yourself in their problems. I notice early on I was getting the same aches and pains she had, eventually depression and weight gain seeped in me. Shocking to me, as a active adult, with a yoga practice, meditation practice and over all health enthusiast, what the heck was happening. I began drinking to comfort myself. Then one day Pluto crossed over Chiron and it triggered my needs to heal me. So, this has now become my opportunity to health my own deeply buried wounds by using her as a reflection of our childhood pain. It doesn’t necessarily make it easier emotionally, but with implementing the work of Dr Mario Martinez along with my gestalt therapist, things are a bit easier. Your book and online class had been a beacon of light for me during this process. I am often reminded “things happen for us…not to us.” I think, that came from Tosha Silver and it is my new mantra…Change me heavenly divine wisdom to rest and trust in the power of love, it heals all. Heal myself so I can heal others. Christiane Northrup, it has been an honor to share space with you, especially over this vitally important subject. As difficult as this process has been it has been my greatest blessing.

    1. Christiane Northrup
      2 years ago

      Such a heartfelt and beautiful post! This sentence really stood out: ” The primary issue that happens as an empathic caregiver is loosing yourself in their problems. ” We empaths have to have better boundaries. As in “i like this. I don’t like THAT.” We lose ourselves solving the problems of OTHERS. And it gets worse and worse until we wake up. Which generally happens for the first time around age 42– our URANUS opposition. ( Our culture calls that a mid-life crisis.)

  21. Karen Minden
    2 years ago

    My observation of the demographic trend is that with more seniors living into their 90s and beyond, (I know at least two people who are over 100 and their kids are in their early 80s), their children are often in their 70s and 80s! Hospital emergency wards will hopefully adjust to this trend and provide an extra stretcher for the waiting children. And perhaps seniors homes will expand to include two generations.

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