There’s something about turning over the calendar page to a new year that inspires us to make changes in our lives. If you’re caring for a loved one, here are a few things you might consider doing in the year ahead to make sure you’re caring for yourself too:
- Exercise. The research keeps showing that people who regularly workout, are healthy in mind and body. A study published in the “Journal of Applied Physiology” found that “lifelong exercisers had a cardiovascular system that looked 30 years younger.” This can be as simple as regular walks or trying something like swimming, pickle ball or lifting weights. When caregivers take care of themselves, they are better equipped to care for those who need their assistance.
- Find your purpose. This may sound daunting at first, but just think of it as giving yourself a focus and added meaning to your life. This may be more of a mission. Ask yourself, “Is someone’s life better because they crossed paths with you?” This is an opportunity to engage with friends and family in a fresh way by asking what they think you’d be good at, or if there is an unfulfilled need in the community that you can help with.
- Join a support group. If you’ve been feeling lonely or frustrated in your caregiving role, you probably aren’t alone. It can be a little scary to be vulnerable with strangers, but it can also be comforting and helpful as you exchange both challenges and successes, gaining new perspective. There are all kinds of support groups in person and online such as groups for people caring for someone living with dementia, or groups for male caregivers, or groups for people caring for someone living Parkinson’s disease and much more. Or, start your own support group!
- Keep learning. When someone close to you is diagnosed with a condition that leaves them increasingly interdependent on others—including you—that’s not it. Often an illness is progressive, such as dementia or multiple sclerosis, and there will be changes for both of you in the future. How can you educate yourself on how to pace yourself in this caregiving role?
- Research backup care. What if you get sick? Or can’t take time away from work? Who will be there in your place? Is there an available neighbor or other family who can step in? The long-term care options in your area may vary from professional in-home care to adult day care, and the prices will also be different.
Review what changes you put in place a year ago when making resolutions. Are there things you started doing and forgot about? Are there things you tried and want to do more of this year? Check in a year later to see what helped the most from this list above.