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The Catch-22s of Being a Good Family Caregiver

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Catch-22 is a common term nowadays that comes from a famous novel by Joseph Heller, published in 1961. In case you aren’t familiar with it, a simple definition is this: a unique set of circumstances that require something that the circumstances themselves forbid. Hmm…. as you can see, it’s difficult to explain so I’ll use an example.

Let’s say you need a loan. You go to a bank and discover that they can’t loan you the money; the Catch-22 is that they will only lend it to people who don’t need it. Why? Because they are in a better position to repay the loan! The more you need it, the less likely you’ll pay it back.

When you are a caregiver for a loved one who is ill, there are any number of stressors that tear at you in different directions at once. Dealing with insurance, handling medical appointments, dealing with the patient’s needs, transportation to/from appointments, taking care of the house, earning a living, and if children are involved that’s another set of responsibilities and things to do, and so on. Handling all of these things is a great skill; the Catch-22 is that if you are a good caregiver and can handle it all, you will come to a point that you’re doing so much that that you won’t have the time to do it, thereby reducing your effectiveness. In other words, the better you are, the less time you’ll have to be good at it.

Taking care of yourself is another big problem for caregivers. The pressures are enormous and you need to take a break, even if it’s only for a little while. The Catch-22 is that the harder you work the more you need a break, and the less time you have to take one.

What’s the answer? Good question. I think that awareness is the key, and you have to take action before you get to the Catch-22 situation. If you are aware that by being a good caregiver you do more, which leaves you less time to be a good caregiver, then you can recognize when you approach the point when effectiveness is lost and either slow down a bit or get some help.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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