Are you a caregiver? It’s time to make a list of ways that you can take care of you too, not just the person who needs your assistance.
Changing how you provide care for someone can actually be good for both of you. This can be done at the beginning of the new year, especially if you are someone who makes resolutions, or anytime you notice that things feel more stressful and overwhelming. Studies have shown caregivers tend to have higher stress than non-caregivers.
While it may be tempting to do it all and make sacrifices for someone in need, it can be detrimental to the well-being of the caregiver over time—then the caregiver may be the one in need of care!
Before you get started, keep these expert tips in mind for making a shift that will stick over time:
- Create small goals that you can measure.
- Share your intentions with others who can help keep you accountable.
- Take it one step at a time.
MAKE CAREGIVING CHANGES
As you decide what resolutions to make, keep in mind why you’re doing this—for your well-being. Which one of these steps will you take to make caregiving better or easier?
- Fitness means something different to each person so just choose something that gets you moving. You might even be able to do something active with the person you care for by taking a walk together or going to a water exercise class at the recreation center. Try something new together like pickle ball or Tai Chi. It hardly needs to be said anymore that regular exercise has the potential to prolong life and even prevent some illness.
- Learn a new skill. Are you caring for someone who used to love fly fishing but you’ve never tried it? Have you both marveled at beautiful artwork but never picked up a paintbrush? Always been curious about flamenco dancing? See if there is a local class—online or in person—that you can take to see what you are capable of while learning how to do something you’ve never done before. It can be good for your brain, bring a few smiles or laughs, and give you something to look forward to on a regular basis.
- Asking for help doesn’t sound like a resolution but many people are afraid to ask for assistance or simply don’t know how to ask. Go ahead and make a list of people or agencies you can call to step in for you as a caregiver. If there are family members who don’t know how to be a caregiver, ask them what they would like to do—maybe it’s just mowing the lawn or bringing over a meal once a month. Share that you weren’t an expert at first either and share some free online classes with them like those available for family caregivers on the Homewatch CareGivers University.
- Hire a professional caregiver to take turns with you as a family caregiver. It’s called “respite care” and basically it means you are taking a break, and this can be for a few hours a week or an entire week at once, customized to your needs. In home care services can allow family caregivers to decrease stress and regain some balance in their life between work, family, and friends. What happens if you get sick or can’t get off time from work?
- There are support groups for different types of caregivers and you can find them online or in your community for regular chats. These groups can provide comfort as well as possibly solutions on what worked for them when they were at your stage of caregiving for a loved one. Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association and others for specific chronic conditions are a good place to start, as well as your local agency on aging.
NEW CAREGIVER GOALS
There will be a time when your caregiving journey changes as care needs evolve. Make your plans based on research with the health care provider’s diagnosis of how symptoms will develop for your loved one.
You can make goals for each week, then each month, then for a few months and adjust as needed for you and the person who depends on your care. It’s also an option to include the person receiving care in resolutions so that you are partners in making day-to-day life improvements for both of you. Since they will only gain from their caregiver feeling their best, they can support you in this endeavor too.