Monday, May 8, 2017

Take a Break!

Many, many people are currently caregivers for someone.  It might be a special needs child, but it could also be an elderly parent, a sick relative, or a number of other possibilities. Those who are not presently in the caregiver role, may well find themselves in that role somewhere down the road as we age alongside of those around us.

Caregiving is a journey that requires a person to immerse themselves into the care of someone else, often at the cost of properly caring for ourselves.  It can mean sleepless nights, poor eating habits, stress, anxiety, and a willingness to ignore physical symptoms.

Simply put, a caregiver will age themselves at a faster rate than a "typical" body will.  How many times have we heard the stories about a spouse caring for their husband/wife for years, and once that person passes away, the spouse gets sick and dies very quickly after? This is certainly no coincidence.

The question for today is:  How does a caregiver protect themselves from deteriorating?

1. Know when to enlist help.  I placed this number one because I think its a huge caregiver issue.  We want to believe we can do everything, and we refuse to acknowledge when we are in over our heads.  Nothing will burn a person out faster than trying to provide care that is outside of their ability level.  Find out what is available and use it.  Any help, big or small, will make a world of difference

2. Keep your own appointments.  Your body has needs, and it will not rationalize the needs of the outside world.  Maintain your dental, eye, physical, and mental heath at all costs. Your special person cannot benefit from your help if you are physically unable to do it

3. Take breaks.  Tyler required my presence around him nearly every waking hour, so I had to be creative in giving myself breaks.  After he went to bed for the night I would have a cold beer and sit and read a book.  In the summer I might float around in the pool with some music playing.  The cliche of "me time" is very real in the caregiver world.  You HAVE to find ways of grabbing that time and refreshing some of your battery power.

4. Socialize.  Isolation is a dangerous and silent killer of caregivers.  Feeling alone in your battle will easily turn into depression, which will help magnify the impact on the mind and body.  There is no substitute for human interaction and its positive effects on the human spirit.  Have lunch with a friend weekly, a night out with friends, or anything else you can squeeze in.

5. Lean on your faith.  Turn to your religion and your church for help.  Churches will often reach out to those in need by making a meal, or visiting, or through prayer.  Attend as often as you are able so you can feel the sense of community and healing around you.  It is important to maintain the sense of purpose and hope as you continue your journey.

These are just 5 things that I feel can greatly preserve and protect a caregiver.  We owe it to our loved ones to be strong and healthy, and we owe it to ourselves to be prepared for life outside of caregiving.  

Be well and God bless.    Tom

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