THE BLOG

The 'In' and 'On' of Family Caregiving

02/26/2015 02:55 pm ET | Updated Apr 28, 2015
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During a board meeting I recently attended for a young company, the two talented founders were discussing an interesting management observation. They described the difficulties that arise when leaders focus on working "IN" the business and lose sight of working "ON" the business.

When you're focused on working IN the business, you're working your tail off to get the job done, to get the product out the door and to make sure customers are satisfied etc., so it's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. And that bigger picture is creating a path for you and your company to grow in a balanced and healthy way ensuring long-term success. But that can only happen when you take a step back from the IN and focus on the ON: setting company goals and communicating them in a way that enables everyone to clearly understand their individual roles.

How effectively you build a business and enjoy yourself in the process depends a lot on how good you are at balancing both. And trust me, the enjoyment is a BIG piece of the puzzle.

At this point you could be thinking, "Victor, nice story but what the h#ll does this have to do with me? I'm not trying to build a company. I'm a family caregiver trying to get through the day." But hear me out.

The truth is that regardless of the affection you have for the loved one in your care, your role as a family caregiver is a job, a job so diverse that it can be comparable to running a company. You have customers (loved ones, an employer, family members, and friends) and business partners (doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, professional caregivers, etc.). You need to monitor emotional, physical, and financial costs, while ensuring that you deliver a healthy product (YOU). Make sense?

Family caregivers, if you begin to think of yourself as the CEO of your own Family Caregiver, Inc., then the goal is to deliver the best care possible while creating a healthy and balanced life for yourself.

In my conversations with family caregivers across the nation, the majority are working IN their family caregiving jobs, maniacally focused on all the day-to-day to-dos associated with helping loved ones,. However, your quality of life as a caregiver greatly depends on your ability to create as balanced a life as possible, and this is extremely difficult when you're working minute to minute, just trying to get through the day. It's all too easy to get caught in the grind, to lose yourself in the process. I call this being on the Family Caregiver Running Wheel and sooner or later, you risk burning out physically or checking out emotionally.

It becomes crucial to take a step back from that laser-like, get-it-done focus and start working ON your family caregiving job, balancing family caregiving responsibilities, and carving out time for personal growth and repair--with (and this is important...) NO guilt!

A saying I often repeat is, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll never know when you get there." So here are my ABC's to help you find and implement a family caregiver path that works for you.

Awareness
For one-week, take an honest inventory of the caregiving tasks and responsibilities you perform for your loved one. Next to each task, jot down whether the task was planned or not. Also include what, if anything, you had to adjust in your personal life to accommodate the task, and if there was anyone other than you who could have helped your loved one with that job.

Balanced Approach
Now, taking a step back from IN, and focusing ON, develop a desired list of your caregiving tasks and responsibilities along with personal activities that you love or help you relax. Prioritize your personal activities in an effort to make sure that you do something for yourself every. single. day. In other words, become the CEO of your life experience.

Communication
For this plan to work, you can't keep it a secret. Once you've determined the path that will allow you to serve as a family caregiver without abandoning your personal needs, it's important that you have a discussion with the loved one in your care and immediate family members. You may be surprised by how understanding everyone is, and just in case they aren't, it's important they understand your plan going forward, so they can make the necessary adjustments in their lives.

Now that you're ON it and considering the bigger picture regarding your role as a caring and supportive family caregiver, "Just Do It!" as one of my favorite clients used to say. Practice it. Reevaluate it. And if need be, make adjustments; but don't lose sight of the bigger picture that includes you. The more you practice, the easier it will become for everyone involved!

So, please give this a try and get OFF the Family Caregiver Running Wheel and ON the path to a more balanced life, which you richly deserve! And feel free to put me on your Board of Directors at any time. You can always contact me at vimbimbo@caringtoday.com with any questions.

Help yourself. Help others.