The New Year is a time when people take inventory of their lives and discern what is going right and what they may want to change. This can be anything from exercising more, watching less TV, or taking better care of ourselves.
As caregivers, our needs are often pushed to the back-burner as we tend to our loved one’s immediate needs. Caregivers are usually so immersed in their role that they neglect their own care.
In an article from AgingCare.com, rough statistics show that 30% of caregivers die before those they are caring for. Some studies show higher death rates.
One example of why this might happen is because caregivers often put off doctor appointments and check-ups. Serious medical conditions, such as breast cancer, can be treated if caught in the early stages. Caregivers may brush off the early signs until it’s too late to treat and becomes a life-threatening situation.
Caregivers often neglect their own routine health care needs, including treatment for high blood pressure, anxiety disorder, or depression. They often attribute this inattention to their health to not having enough time to schedule these appointments or they are so tired of attending appointments with their loved one that they have medical visit fatigue.
As we set aside time to create goals for the New Year, challenge the caregivers you know (and we all know at least one) to take better care of themselves.
Here is a short list of self-care ideas. Ask and encourage them to choose one or two that they will do for themselves, at least once a week, for the next 90 days. Why 90 days? It takes 3 weeks to create a habit and 90 days to permanently make it a lifestyle change.
How can caregivers care for themselves?
• Eat a well-balanced diet
• Exercise by taking short walks daily or at least three times a week
• Listen to guided relaxation recordings or relaxing music
• Schedule short rest periods between activities
• Set limits for what you can do
• Say “No” unless someone is asking if you want help with something
• Read poetry
• Play cards
• Send someone a card in the mail
• Listen to your favorite music
• Play with your pet
• Talk with a friend
• Pour your feelings into a recording (and then erase it)
• Hold a baby
• Try a new recipe
• Join the Mug Club Caregiver Support Group (2nd Wednesday each month)
There really is no wrong idea. Urge them to take just 5 minutes for themselves to take some deep breaths, refocus, and start over.
To all of our caregivers, when you are tempted to put your own needs on the back-burner because there just isn’t time, remember these words: “Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.” – Katie Reed
Sources: AgingCare.com &
Sullivan AB, Miller D. Who is Taking Care of the Caregiver? J Patient Exp. 2015 May;2(1):7-12. doi: 10.1177/237437431500200103. Epub 2015 May 1. PMID: 28725810; PMCID: PMC5513610.