When giving the best care, is remembering self-care
Are you a caregiver for your spouse, parent, family, or friend? Caring for someone else can be a rewarding but totally overwhelming responsibility. You might be a caregiver if, you have:
- Dealt with housing issues (home care vs assisted living vs long term care)
- Dealings with healthcare issues/choices for someone
- Care for finances (paying bills, balancing the checkbook, managing accounts)
- A habit of caring for day to day tasks (grocery shopping, getting them to the beauty shop, running to the cleaners, getting the pet to the vet)
- To talk with doctors, work with nurses and therapists, have sat down with social workers on your loved one’s behalf
- Had to “play nice” with siblings or other family members when it comes to your loved one’s care
AND THE LIST GOES ON
It’s enough to ruin your own health! Too often, I have taken care of a spouse in the hospital telling me, “I have to get home, (insert spouse) is in worse shape than me and needs my help.” Though this statement is true, I usually look them in the eye and say, “But you are the one in the hospital now and YOU need the help.”
The best analogy that I typically give to patients (and I got it from Family Caregiver Alliance) goes something like this:
On an airplane, an oxygen mask descends in front of you. What do you do? As we all know, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important—and one of the most often forgotten—things you can do as a caregiver. When your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too.
A wonderful caregiver resource is “How to Be a Resilient Caregiver.” Not only does it help on the day-to-day helpful tips for caring for a loved one, it also talks about self-care. Here are a few tips I picked out of it.
Get Additional Help
You don’t have to do this alone and nor should you. You also need to allow others to help you. Caring for your loved one is too big for just one person. And don’t have guilt about allowing someone to help you.
Be Mindful of Your Emotional Health
Having feelings is normal, so be attentive and mindful when emotions start to bubble up. It may just be some deep breathing and telling yourself, “time to let go of all those thoughts and feeling for now” or you may need to seek professional help. Make sure to find some humor in things and laugh. Also make sure your own personal spiritual needs at met.
Care for Your Physical Needs
It’s more than sleep, eat right and exercise. Are you doing activities that you enjoy or have you stopped everything in your life to be a caregiver? Are you doing activities like drinking or taking drugs as a remedy or way to cope?
Take One Day at a Time!
I will leave you with The Caregiver’s Bill of Rights (Adapted from “Caregiving: Helping an Aging Loved One” by Jo Horne, published in 1985 by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP))
I have the right:
- To take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will give me the capability of taking better care of my loved one.
- To seek help from others even though my loved ones may object. I recognize the limits of my own endurance and strength.
- To maintain facets of my own life that do not include the person I care for, just as I would if he or she were healthy. I know that I do everything that I reasonably can for this person, and I have the right to do some things just for myself.
- To get angry, be depressed, and express other difficult feelings occasionally.
- To reject any attempts by my loved one (either conscious or unconscious) to manipulate me through guilt, and/or depression.
- To receive consideration, affection, forgiveness, and acceptance for what I do, from my loved ones, for as long as I offer these qualities in return.
- To take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it has sometimes taken to meet the needs of my loved one.
- To protect my individuality and my right to make a life for myself that will sustain me in the time when my loved one no longer need my full-time help.
- To expect and demand that as new strides are made in finding resources to aid physically and mentally impaired persons in our country, similar strides will be made towards aiding and supporting caregivers.