Knowing When to Stop

Knowing when to stop offering care to an elderly family member or client is sometimes just as important as knowing when to start. Some of the hardest decisions I face as a caregiver involve those moments when I come up against my own limitations — limitations of time, attention, stamina, skill, resources, emotional resilience — and realize it’s time to stop.

Maybe I’m working in a facility during a construction project that has carpenters running circular saws at full throttle just before dinner. Instead of hurrying in to set the table, can I pause long enough for two relaxing breaths? Inhale for a count of 5, exhale for a count of 10; repeat.

Maybe my mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, fires her new homemaker for the third time in three days. Instead of trying to change her mind, can I open my own mind to another approach to the problem?  

Maybe my home-care client has experienced a sudden decline in status and needs to be bathed in bed. Instead of silently risking a back injury, can I ask a family member to help?

What we do at these moments matters. In the relationship between caregiver and care recipient, both of us matter.  And sometimes, no matter how much we want to go on, it’s time to stop.