A New Year of Caregiving
Welcome to our very first blog post! We hope you’ll find our blog a valuable resource as we highlight the unique experiences that our communities can offer. Expect to hear from our people - residents, staff, volunteers, community members - whose collective experiences represent life at Catholic Eldercare. Our goal is to show you that we are a place of community, and one in which people thrive physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
If each new day is a blank page in the diary of our life, then January IS that diary. Gleaming with promise for all 365 days that await, this month marks the time where burgers are swapped for salads, the loveseat takes the backseat, and our favorite TV show(s) get replaced with longstanding home improvement projects.
If you’re a caregiver for a loved one, the prospect of compiling New Year’s resolutions may feel like just another thing to add to your neverending list of to-dos. But completely chucking them isn’t the greatest idea, especially when it comes to your own health.
It’s only when we first help ourselves that we can be effective in helping others. Self-care - one of the most important and often most neglected things you can do as a caregiver - doesn’t just benefit yourself, it benefits the person you’re caring for, too.
Taking on the role of a caregiver for your parent or loved one while juggling family life and holding down another job, significantly increases your risk for depression, chronic illness, and other quality-of-life challenges. In fact, studies have shown that an estimated 46-59% of caregivers are clinically depressed. And yet, family caregivers are more likely than non-caregivers to push away their own needs, time after time.
You owe it to yourself and to your loved ones to be the best version of you. While we’re fresh into 2017, consider picking out (and sticking to!) a few of the resolutions we’ve provided to help you become a happier, healthier caregiver and, ultimately, a happier, healthier you. Start small, but start today.
Be good to yourself. Instead of dwelling on the criticism and guilt that regularly plagues your mind, find a way to drown it all out. While it’s easier said than done, remind yourself that you are enough. Even if it isn’t said out loud, your loved one and your family recognize you’re doing the best you can. And they are so grateful for it.
Ask for help. Asking someone else to lend a hand in a moment of need is not a sign of failure. Since we’re all so hardwired to say “I’m fine!” when we’re put on the spot, put together a list of activities/needs and refer to it when someone offers up their help.
Get a good night’s sleep. As caregivers, it’s one of the most basic things we need for our own health and well-being. To regulate your internal clock, try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. If 7 to 8 hours of sleep sounds like a tall order, think about your daily activities and which, if any, can be removed entirely or delegated to someone else.
Give yourself a break! Time for yourself is a rare commodity. While Dad’s watching the news or reading the paper, carve out a few minutes to scribble in your journal, read a spiritual passage, or look up a fun recipe on Pinterest. While taking a day off may seem completely unrealistic (at least for now), scatter in some one or two-minute breaks to give yourself something to look forward to. Then build on that over time.
Get some support. Think about joining a support group for caregivers. They provide an opportunity to gain perspective, and learn from others who walk in your shoes. Check out the Care Providers of Minnesota and the local Alzheimer’s Association for resources and support.
Move around. Make sure you’re getting proper nutrition with a balanced diet, and work some exercise into your schedule, even if it means going up and down the stairs. Think about chores as an opportunity to exercise.
Stay organized. You’ll instantly feel a weight taken off your shoulders when you take the time to organize your caregiving tasks. Make it a habit at the beginning of each week to organize your loved one’s medications, track their finances in a spreadsheet, and/or update your calendar with appointments.