According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more than 34 million Americans provide unpaid care to a loved one age 50 or older. The average caregiver spends approximately 24 hours a week in that role. Many caregivers report their own health as fair or poor.
It is critical for caregivers to take care of themselves – to ensure that both they and the people they care for are able to lead the best lives possible. Here are seven resolutions all caregivers should make and follow throughout the New Year.
Create time for yourself
To provide the best care for a loved one, you need to be in good shape – physically and mentally. Put your needs at the top of your priority list. Maintain your exercise regimen and continue doing the things that feed your spirit. This isn’t a selfish act. In the long run, it will benefit the person you’re caring for.
In order to ensure you have the ability to take care of yourself, you may need to establish some boundaries with the person you’re caring for. Sit down with them and share your schedule of when you’re available – and when you’re not. Let your loved one know the plan for their care when you’re away and provide contact information when you’re not around.
Ask for help
Caregiving is an enormous task – one that very few people can pull off successfully by themselves. If you’re caring for a family member, talk to your siblings, aunts and uncles and other relatives and share with them what’s going on and that you could use some help in caring for your mutual loved one. If they don’t live close enough to provide face-to-face assistance, consider asking them for financial support for a professional caregiver.
Let others know what’s going on
If you have children, explain to them what’s going on and that you may be less available for them. Reassure them that you still love them and want to know what’s going on in their lives. Let friends know that their friendship is even more important to you during this challenging time and find ways to connect. Talk to your boss – you may be able to arrange a work schedule that accommodates your caregiving duties. Let coworkers know you appreciate their support during this time.
Join a support group
Support groups are a wonderful way to share your feelings about your role as well as connect with people who share your challenges. The simple act of being validated for your feelings can be remarkably healing. For those caring for someone with dementia, The Alzheimer’s Association has a convenient search tool to help you find a support group in your area.
Keep a positive attitude
While this is often easier said than done, there are some simple things you can do to maintain a positive attitude. Find something every day to be grateful for and make note of it – either mentally or in a journal. Surround yourself with people who support you and make you feel good about yourself. Create visual cues of things you find beautiful or that remind you of what you cherish most in life – whether it’s a photo of you and your dog, a memento from a wonderful vacation, or a drawing from your son when he was six years old.
Consider hiring professional help
If you are concerned about your loved one, live far away, or just need reassurance that you are on the right path, AMR Care Group can help. Our aging life care professionals can assess your loved one’s needs, act as an advocate during medical, financial and legal appointments, and can recommend high quality senior services in your area, including home care, elder law specialists, and senior living communities. Our in-home caregivers can provide companionship, help with personal care, prepare meals, perform light housekeeping and accompany clients to medical appointments, among many other services.