But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.—PSALM 40:17 (NIV)
Admitting one has needs—is needy—may be the most difficult part of being a caregiver. What is “acceptable” to need is naturally graded on an invisible scale and reserved for special situations and people: namely the disabled, the very young or the very old. If you have normal mental and physical faculties and are able-bodied, personal needs get shoved to the bottom of the pile. There’s too much to do, with too little time, and after all, consider (fill in the blank)’s needs. Now those are needs that can’t be ignored!
Caregivers will constantly confront the temptation to power through responsibilities at their own personal expense for the sake of an obviously needy family member or client. This is not admirable; it is potentially devastating. Consider the instructions given by the flight crew before takeoff: “In case of emergency, place your own oxygen mask on before assisting someone else.” Without your own mask firmly in place, you will suffocate while helping another with theirs. This warning should be plastered in a prominent place for caregivers to see daily.
Consider things like personal time, sleep and connection to friends not a luxury, but as critical support in the emotionally and physically demanding job of caregiving. Just because your needs are not physically obvious doesn’t mean they are any less important than the ones of those in your care.