Providing on-going, supportive care is taxing in every way -physically, emotionally and mentally – and can be particularly difficult if you are still working or if you are a “sandwich” caregiver (meaning that you care for your own children as well as your parents). The words “relax” and “de-stress” may not even be in your vocabulary. We believe that some small changes can make a big difference! But, where do you begin? We have outlined some ideas to get you started below.
We know, we know – exercise is mentioned in nearly every list about self-care, but there is literally no time of your life – young or old, in shape or out – that exercise does not yield wonderful benefits for your body and mind! Exercise can be as simple as going for a walk to clear your head. If you can’t get out of the house, try an at-home workout on Netflix or Amazon Prime. There are so many free work-out programs available now. There are even exercises by fitness professionals available on YouTube! Of course, with any exercise program, you should always consult your doctor about which one is best for you and your particular physical profile.
Mindfulness is a wonderful tool for releasing stress and negative feelings. It is all about being present. To be mindful is to quietly observe your thoughts, feelings and physical state in a given moment. Through being mindful we can learn the joy of being and can even take pleasure in simple, mundane things – like washing dishes! Although it is an every-day routine, feeling the warmth of the water and soap on your hands while you wash them and breathing deep can help you to release stress. Adult coloring books are another excellent activity to practice mindfulness. You can find several different kinds on Amazon.
This is probably the most understated piece of advice. It may seem trite, but it is easy to get so caught up in the business of necessary, daily activities that you forget to enjoy the day together. Having fun can bring you back to the joy of your relationship and remind you that the person you knew before an injury or illness is still there. While your loved one may be limited physically and/or cognitively, there are always ways to connect to them and have fun. You may just have to be a little creative. Music is an especially great way to connect to your loved one with Dementia or Alzheimer’s. Many Alzheimer’s and Dementia researchers are finding fascinating discoveries about the link between music and memory. There are new therapies being developed specifically for people with dementia and even programs that you can participate in with your family member. MusicandMemory.orgis a great place to start!
TAKE SHORT BREAKS
At the end of the day, recharge with whatever fills you up, even if it’s just for thirty minutes. Whether it be a warm bath, a good book, or inviting a friend over for a cup of tea, prioritize yourself for a half an hour out of each day. It might feel indulgent, especially if there are things left on your “to-do” list, but taking time for yourself will actually yield better results in the long run. If you need to leave the house in order to get alone time, consider looking into respite care through your employer or check with certain organizations like the Parkinson’s Association, who have programs that allot funds specifically for family caregivers.
TAKE A VACATION
Sometimes a longer “sabbatical” is required when you are feeling particularly overwhelmed and burnt out. Taking a vacation requires more resources, particularly financial, as you will have to pay for a caregiver to cover for you, in addition to your travels. However, if you are able, taking time away can be enough to decompress and come back ready to give.
We hope you are feeling encouraged to take some time for self-care. And as always, we are here for you whenever you need compassionate caregivers and clinicians to help you out!