Setting and Maintaining Healthy Boundaries As A Caregiver

As the autumn season begins to settle in, we find ourselves preparing the outside of our home and gardens for the impending winter season. Whether we know it or not, we are creating a boundary between nature and self.

There are many types of boundaries that occur in nature, as well as with ourselves and others. Some examples of personal boundaries are ones that include physical, mental/emotional, financial, moral, sexual and spiritual.

While healthy personal boundaries are extremely important, if self-care is not at the top of your list, keeping boundaries when you are providing care to a loved one becomes difficult.

Maintaining Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries by definition are a dividing line. A limit of a subject or sphere of activity, marking a border.  I think it may be easy to create a boundary when it comes to land, space within an office or house, or even at a school or store. We can clearly see where someone has a definitive space. Even in nature, we can cultivate rows of growing with flowers or vegetables and then take every effort during the growing season to contain the plants in that space.

Maintaining healthy boundaries can protect who you are as an individual. Gerard Manley Hopkins, a 19th century English poet and Victorian writer, said: “Your personal boundaries protect the inner core of your identity and your right to choices.” 

Understanding why one should maintain healthy boundaries is something that Hope Grows instills in the caregivers that we work with.

But what happens when we have difficulty with self-care, especially when we are family caregivers? As with caregiving, there may be a lot of well-intentioned people telling you what to do in regard to taking care of self and in some cases, regarding the tasks of providing care. I think our well-intentioned friends mean no harm, but each caregiver needs to take an individual approach to what will work for them.

Life After Caregiving

One of the services we provide is Life after Caregiving. A common thread that we find among past caregivers is loss of identity. Through grief work, I often hear, “I no longer socialize with my friends,” “I put my career on hold,” “I don’t even know what I like to do anymore,” “I feel so empty.” 

Another observation is those who struggled with maintaining the core of their identity while caregiving typically didn’t maintain some form of self-care, therefore, contributing to the breakdown of healthy boundaries. By the time caregiving has ended, they have misplaced their individuality and struggle with the change in their role as a caregiver.

In order to maintain healthy boundaries, including individuality, a good self-care practice needs to be in place at the onset of caregiving. When we are strong in mind, body and spirit, we are able to say no, feel less guilty, and focus on self.

Reach out to us if you need help with an individualized approach for staying healthy while caregiving. Just like exercise, we have to do what works for us and self-care is different for everyone. A self-care mindset is the cornerstone of being able to set boundaries that work. Maintaining a healthy SELF is important for healthy boundaries and Hope Grows is here to help.

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