As we approach the holidays, did you know self-care is one of the most important, and also one of the most often forgotten, things you as a caregiver can do? Think about and set your personal limits early, and clearly communicate about them with friends and family.
Family caregivers of any age are less likely than non-caregivers to practice preventive health and self-care. The person you are providing care for benefits when your own needs are part of the equation.
Here are several strategies that can help you prioritize your self-care during the holidays and the months ahead.
Determine what you want to accomplish in the next three to six months and write it down. Doing this provides a concrete reminder of your goals—and your need to take care of yourself. Once you have identified your goals, developing an action plan can change your attitude and boost confidence in your abilities.
Develop a plan
Exploring possible solutions to difficult situations is another important caregiving tool. As you list possible solutions, you can try one or all and evaluate the results. For example, taking a break from caregiving might mean asking for help from friends or family or finding agencies near you that can help provide care.
Richard McGuire, retired senior minister from Urbana’s First United Methodist Church, says “The experience of numerous caregivers who feel good about their caregiving affirms that taking the time to consider their goals and to develop an action plan enables them to provide optimum care for their loved ones.”
Talk with others
Gather information to help you with short- and long-term decision making about meeting the continuing caregiving needs of your loved one:
- Consider the type of care your loved one needs—and your comfort level for providing personal care.
- Determine whether constant supervision or assistance is needed throughout the day—and how to provide it.
- Evaluate your stress, health, and physical abilities to provide on-going care.
- Research respite options: in-home care, respite care, adult daycare, assisted living, and a continuing-care retirement community or skilled nursing facility.
- Discuss available resources: long-term care insurance, veterans’ benefits, and so forth.
It is crucial that caregivers educate themselves about their loved one’s illness to be prepared for the challenges and rewards of caregiving. Lean on those who get it—that’s where hope and support can truly be found.
Knowledge is a lifeline that prepares you to make the most of the journey ahead. Set realistic expectations for yourself—and accept changes as they occur. A dementia-related illness means that, eventually, a loved one will need 24/7 care.
Take care of yourself
Finally, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs. Accept that taking responsibility for your own self-care is a crucial part of being an effective caregiver. Practice stress-reduction techniques and get proper rest, nutrition, and exercise. Take needed time off without guilt, accept that you are not perfect, and know that you are doing your best!
Soul Care Urban Retreat Center is committed to Help the Helpers like those who are dementia caregivers. They provide local space and resources to help dementia caregivers and family members a place to care for themselves and their spirits. Quiet Pods are one way to experience rest and renewal. Spiritual wellness and self-care are essential to improving resiliance, mental and emotional well-being, and mindset for those who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Guest Blogger for Soul Care:
Dr. Karen Roth Gehrt, community resource director for Amber Glen Alzheimer’s Special Care Center, Urbana, IL, is a certified dementia live coach/educator and a registered, licensed dietitian. Email Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone her at (217) 384-0100.