Caregivers have very little privacy. We leave the bathroom door open so we can hear our loved ones if they call. The clinic calls just as we've poured our tea and sat down with the newspaper. A home care worker arrives to give us respite and complains about the dishes in the sink. Later, a social worker arrives and enquires about our spousal relations. Giving up some privacy is necessary for caregivers sometimes, but we don't have to give it all away. Preserving a bit of privacy means keeping a personal part of ourselves intact, with dignity.
So, where can caregivers find privacy at home? Here are some ideas:
1) Get up before your loved one. The early hours of the morning are the best friend of many caregivers I know. The house is quiet and there is delicious peace at the kitchen table.
2) Carve out one small bit of time for yourself every day and a larger block once a week. The daily respite might be a bubble bath and the weekly break might be yoga class. Protect these times fiercely - they are sacred! So make sure that friends, family and medical professionals know you are never available during your breaks.
3) Defend your space and your home (sanctuary) when professionals come over. Develop a cheerful greeting such as "Welcome! Tidying up isn't high on our list of priorities lately, but luckily our family is OK with that."
4) If you have the space, create a 'room of one's own'. Actually, it doesn't have to be a whole room - maybe just a desk, a corner chair or a bathroom. Make this your private space and decorate it the way you like. Find photos or prints that inspire you and put them up. Add candles and fairy lights.... whatever has personal meaning for you. This is your sanctuary and even if you leave the door open for caregiving, your space has imaginary walls. It is yours.
5) Find quiet places in your community. Visit a church, synagogue or temple during off-hours. A walk in the woods works well for privacy and peace, too. If you don't have a forest nearby, visit a cemetery. It sounds crazy, but these are public, natural spaces designed for privacy and contemplation. Often, there are beautiful gardens and woods with benches for quiet reflection.
Being intentional about protecting your privacy as a caregiver is important. Much of the day, our lives are open books, but saving a little time and space just for ourselves nourishes the heart and soul.