This year, care for yourself too
The new year brings a fresh start. For many people, that means setting new goals.
Now is the perfect time to put yourself back on the priority list so you can get the self-care you need and deserve.
It’s natural for caregivers to put themselves last, but this subconscious habit is harmful to health – the consequences of unchecked caregiver stress are serious. Studies show that it can cause serious chronic illness and higher rates of early death. Ongoing stress also negatively affects mood, relationships, and overall well-being.
We share 4 self-care goals that protect your long-term health and well-being along with suggestions for how to make them happen.
These goals and suggestions are meant to inspire creative thinking to help you find solutions that will give you time to rest and recharge.
As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” The more your own needs are met, the better caregiver you can be to your older adult.
4 New Year’s goals for caregivers
1. Get help so you’re not doing everything by yourself
- Put together a caregiving team of family, friends, and/or local resources
- Ask family or friends to help with your older adult – whether it’s hands-on care, providing companionship, managing finances, doing research, running errands, doing chores, etc.
- Hire a geriatric care manager to help solve tough care challenges
- Get outside help or lower your standards for time-consuming chores like cleaning or cooking
2. Take time for yourself every day
- Take micro breaks throughout the day – it’s an effective way to reduce stress when you’re short on time
- Do a 2 minute meditation, breathing exercise, or calming exercise
- Improve circulation and reduce stress with an easy 4 minute workout
- Escape from reality with a great book, magazine, or audiobook
- Connect with friends – through phone calls, video chats, coffee, or a meal
- Relax your body and get some fresh air with a casual stroll around the block
- Do something (anything!) just for you. Everyone needs regular me time.
3. Schedule regular breaks
- Get someone to sit with your older adult while you go out (or take a nap) – ask family, friends, volunteers from local service or religious organizations, or try programs like Senior Companions
- Hire an in-home caregiver for a few hours each week
- Convince family members to take over on a regular basis
- Enroll your older adult in an adult day program
- Use local respite care programs
4. Stop wishful thinking
In caregiving, it’s important to manage your emotional energy as well as your time.
Wishing or hoping that something will change even though you’ve seen the same outcome time after time is a drain on that energy.
For example, maybe you’ve been thinking for the last two years, “I hope next weekend my sister will finally take over and give me a break.”
It doesn’t feel good to admit that these things won’t change. But accepting the way things are allows you to use your valuable emotional energy on positive things rather than repeatedly wishing for something and then getting frustrated when it doesn’t happen.
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