When you become a caregiver, the care recipient’s needs become part of your life. If you’re not careful, their needs can take over your life. This is my 21st year of caregiving—nine years with my mother, seven years with my orphaned twin grandchildren, and five years with my disabled husband.

Along the way I learned an important lesson: To be happy, I need to keep parts of my former, non-caregiving life. Without these connections I would be a depressed person. Thankfully, I’m an upbeat person and more in love with my husband than ever.   

Still, I need to have a life. That’s why we’re paying $20,000 out of pocket per year for a caregiver to come for two hours each morning. This help reduces the burdens of caregiving and gives me some time to myself. Creative people need quiet, thinking time and paid caregivers give me this time.

I need to have a life. That’s why I stay in touch with friends via social media and social events. Long-term caregiving can be isolating. Staying in touch with friends makes me feel less isolated. Since I don’t see friends often, I make the most of the time I do spend with them, and laughter is part of this time.

I need to have a life. That’s why I continued my writing career against the advice of friends. Giving up on writing would be giving up on myself. Rather than abandoning my career, I changed the focus of my writing from health/wellness to caregiving. So far, I’ve written five books on the topic.

I need to have a life. That’s why I continue to volunteer for organizations near and dear to my heart. Although I dropped out of some organizations to be my husband’s caregiver, I’ve retained contact with two, and feel like I’m making a difference.

I need to have a life. That’s why I’m honest with my sweet husband. When I feel bogged down, I call time out. He still gets his medications on time, good food, and loving care. But I get to recharge my caregiving batteries with a nap, reading a book, or watching decorating and cooking programs on television. (Seems I’m addicted to these channels.)

I need to have a life. That’s why I continue to research caregiving and apply the findings to our daily schedule. Caregiving is a massive topic and there is always something to learn. Learning helps me to be a better caregiver and I used the research for the articles and books I write. The fact that I can still learn is comforting.

My husband is my biggest fan and always cheering for me. I ‘m grateful for his growing love for me, and my growing love for him. On August 10th we celebrated our 61st wedding anniversary. I am blessed to be married to such a brilliant, kind, insightful man and share my days with him.

We have forged a beautiful life together.