Many family caregivers feel like they don’t have time to do much of anything for themselves. Their entire focus is on how they can be a better caregiver. As a caregiver, when you look ahead to the new year and think about what you would like to change or do better, are any of those thoughts focused on your mental and physical health or only on the loved one you are caring for? Not making resolutions or a plan for self-care can be detrimental for you and the person you are caring for.
The lack of a conscious plan of self-care can result in caregiver burnout.
Make specific plans to care for yourself. As the new year begins, it’s okay to resolve to do everything you can to keep your loved one comfortable and safe. But add to your Things-I-Should-Do List at least three or four things you want to do that will ultimately make you happier, healthier and a better caregiver in the long-run. Here are nine examples.
In the New Year, I resolve to:
- Make a “help wish list” and refer to it when people ask what they can do to help me. Not having to think about what you need or want will make it easier to accept help when it is offered.
- Make sleep a priority. Do what many young mothers do: sleep when the “baby” sleeps. Don’t feel guilty when you don’t use possible sleep time for something “more productive.”
- Eat the equivalent of three healthy meals a day, even if you have to eat smaller portions more often. Cut down on food preparation time, and when you do cook, make enough for several meals. Include lots of plant matter in what you and your loved one eat.
- Make a list of the things I would like to do if I “had the time.” If you know what you want to do, you can often make it happen. If you don’t know, something else will always come first.
- At the end of each day, repeat the words, “Perfection is an unrealistic goal. I am doing everything that I reasonably can do for the person I care for and have the right to do some things for myself.
- Take at least five minutes every day to talk to someone outside my home. Use the time to either vent or to discuss something that has nothing to do with caregiving.
- Learn the signs of depression and promise yourself that you will see a healthcare provider if you think you are becoming depressed.
- Exercise at home. Even though you can’t go to the gym, you can still exercise at home. Spending 45 minutes 5 days a week exercising helps both your body and mind to feel better.
- Find and join a caregiver support group. You can also talk to other caregivers via online forums such as thefamilycaregiver.org. Caregivers who share resources and their own personal experiences report less stress and fewer problems.
Many caregivers don’t realize or accept the need to maintain facets of their own life that do not include the person they care for, just as they would if he or she were healthy. All caregivers need to protect their individuality and right to make a life for themselves that will sustain them in times when their loved one no longer needs their full-time help.
Get help from Dakota Home Care. We’ve met many family caregivers who are on the verge of burnout. Dakota Home Care offers respite care, so we have learned from first-hand experience what a positive difference just short breaks in an otherwise demanding schedule can make. You don’t have to do it all alone. We offer in-home services tailored to your caregiving needs. Contact us today at (877) 691-0015 for a free in-home evaluation of other services we offer that might help.
We also refer people who qualify to the North Dakota Family Caregiver Support Program. Click on the link, or get pertinent details from this Fact Sheet. Federally funded under the Older Americans Act, this program offers help to caregivers who are caring for an adult age 60 or older, or for caregivers aged 60 years or older who are caring for grandchildren or other young relatives.
In 2023, resolve to do what is needed to maintain your ability to be a caregiver. As they say on an airplane, “Take care of yourself first so you will be able to take care of your loved ones.”