I was completely unprepared for my caregiving journey and set out on choppy waters because I was determined to care for my parents.

Caregiving is a complex combination of challenging, frightening, rewarding and surprising. I gained valuable insight along the way and discovered many things they don’t tell you about the experience.

Below are 5 things about caregiving I wish I had known before I began my caregiving journey.

How Hard It Is

Given the nature and personality of most caregivers who are go-getters and deeply committed people, they are usually shocked to realize how difficult the caregiving job can be. They don’t think twice about signing up for the job because it’s the right thing to do. They then assume they can handle anything. The enormity of the task is hard to fathom.

Caregiving is such a physical and emotional roller coaster that even caregivers with the best intentions aren’t prepared. Not because they aren’t capable, but because it’s usually a job for more than one. Caregiving takes a village. Getting help along the way is the most important survival tool.

How Worried You Get

Once I got into the groove of caring for my parents, I was amazed to find that I carried with me a sense of worry all the time. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Getting support and sharing my concerns helped ease the constant scary feeling I had. Making sure I got comfort whenever and wherever I could became an important step I took for myself.

How to Survive

The number one thing that no one explains to you is how you must take care of yourself while you take care of others. Radical self-care is a necessity, not a luxury. You must maintain a healthy diet, get enough rest and ask for help. You need to get exercise and all the support you need. You can embrace your journey only if you are in top shape emotionally and physically. It’s challenging but doable if you are as kind to yourself as you are to others.

How Rewarding It Is

Taking care of my parents was the best thing I’ve done in my life. It was the most healing, empowering and enriching experience I have had. The challenges and difficulties fade away but the precious memories of laughter and love remain. I was able to have and appreciate quality time with my parents, healing and nurturing our relationships. It turned out to be a precious gift for all of us.

How Many Angels You Will Meet

There are many people involved in the caregiving experience. I was constantly amazed by where I found support and help. Just when I thought I was at my wits end, someone would miraculously appear and right whatever wrong I was facing. The kindness of strangers, friends and family restored my faith in the world and to this day I am grateful for all the angels earthbound and heavenly that helped me on my journey.

Caregiving is an act of courage and love.

These are just a few of the things you may encounter as you travel your caregiving journey. As challenging as it is, caregiving is one of the greatest acts of courage and love. You will learn powerful life lessons and discover magical things about yourself. Embrace this path you have chosen. It is rewarding in ways you can’t imagine.

I’d love to hear about your experience. Are there things you wish you had known going into the caregiving experience? What surprised you most about caregiving? Please share your own experiences and what you learned as a caregiver.

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