Daily, I work with families that are in need of finding assisted living for a loved one and I have identified a very common trait that runs in almost every group of people encountered. There is always one primary caregiver and that person has reached the end of their rope. They are in crisis mode every bit as much as the person they are caring for. Part of the reason they are in a personal crisis is that they have forgotten to take care of themselves. In order to provide care for their loved one, they have sacrificed their own well-being. My colleague, Jane Davis who is a licensed professional counselor, has written a wonderful list of suggestions for caregivers and I wanted to share it. Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, who will take care of your loved one when you’re unable to? ~ Becky
I don’t think there’s any more appropriate use of the airplane metaphor–the one about placing your own oxygen mask on your face before your child’s — than that of being a caregiver. Caregivers often forget to breathe deeply. Caregivers have high rates of both physical and emotional dis-ease. And it’s no wonder. It’s exhausting and demanding. But like other life challenges, it’s also an opportunity for growth. Whatever else it may be (and each person’s situation is unique), to be a caregiver, to take on the responsibility of managing many aspects of the life of a parent, especially when one feels overwhelmed by other responsibilities, requires self care. The following list provides some suggestions:
-Physical self care. Exercise, eat healthy meals and get plenty of sleep; have regular check-ups with trusted physicians and dentists and attend promptly to any necessary treatments and procedures.
-Spiritual Conditioning. Nurture a faith life. Utilize prayer, meditation or twelve step programs.
-Address your emotional needs. Use counselors and therapists to help work through past resentments, to cope with a wide range of emotions, to set limits, and to learn some new skills. Use a spiritual director or clergy person to help deepen your faith life.
-Develop a trusting relationship with a financial advisor (and your parent’s financial advisor) and be sure your own fianances are well managed. Have a financial plan that includes long term care insurance and know what your reasonable limits are for assisting family members.
-Be sure you have your own will and trust in order, and educate yourself about your parent’s will. If they haven’t put their “affairs in order”, your doing yours is a good time to discuss their doing theirs. Even if you have prepared well for end of life, seek expert advice about putting closure on all the details.
-Educate yourself about whatever disabilities or diseases your parent may be suffering; learn how to prevent a medical crisis and about resources available to you –online resources, agencies, health care providers, etc.
-Be aware of the signs which indicate it might be time for your parents to downsize. If and when it is time to consider moving into a retirement community or assisted living facility, utilize the expertise of a professional specialist who can not only provide a wealth of information about communities, but can help address many aspects of this major life transition.
-Keep connected to a caring community–church, synagogue, neighborhood, club, etc.
-Make time for other relationships which nurture you and let go of relationships that drain you. If you are in a couple relationship, be sure to “protect” it by setting aside specific time for relaxation and play.
-Share meals with friends!
-Identify people, places and activities which bring you joy. Make them priorities. You NEED these in your life!
-Hire help for what you can afford and don’t have to do yourself. This includes cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc.
-Set limits with other people regarding what you are able to do.
-If there are other family members involved in sharing responsibilities, be collaborative, organize family meetings and provide a structure for ongoing communication.
-Push yourself out into new places or your world might become too small. Find places to awaken your spirit and sense of adventure.
Jane Davis, licensed professional counselor
9260 E. Raintree Dr. Ste. 130, Scottsdale, AZ 85260