By Crystal Gonder
Each season means a fresh start and a chance to regroup, reflect and make some positive changes. Whether you are caring for an aging parent, a spouse or family member, being a caregiver is a demanding role. Here are five resolutions to make this spring and summer.
Take care of you. Caregivers are often loving, generous people who are willing to put others’ needs before their own. But these generally positive traits can have a detrimental effect, as the daily stress of caregiving can potentially put you at risk for chronic disease. Identify a priority for your well-being—maybe you need to lose some weight, increase your exercise, get more sleep or find a therapist to help you manage stress. Taking care of yourself will benefit everyone you love.
Spend time together. In the throes of caregiving, you may find it difficult— or even forget—to set aside time to just enjoy your loved one’s company. Commit to doing one fun activity together every week. Whether it’s baking something delicious, going to the movies or walking to your favourite coffee shop, building your connection and creating fond memories will be very restorative.
Reconnect and get away. One of the greatest challenges of caregiving is the isolation that can come with it. To care better and for longer, try reaching out to friends and working on your relationships. Book a girls trip or a couples retreat, score concert tickets, relax together at the spa or, if you can’t leave, host a movie night at home. Friendships will help with depression and anxiety and bring more joy into your life.
Practice saying yes. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to resist offers of help or be unwilling to ask for support. Make a list of the things you could easily delegate. When someone asks how they can help, look to your list. Family, friends or neighbours can assist with school drop-offs, doctor’s appointments or respite care when you need a break. Your loved one will probably appreciate the new face and you’ll return feeling refreshed.
Get organized. Take a little time to set yourself up for success. Update doctor and care-provider numbers on your phone, and try using a caregiving app for medication and appointment reminders. Consider booking regular house cleaning, yard services or home-delivered meals, and organize important financial, legal and medical documents. Getting a good grasp on things will make you feel less overwhelmed.
Leave unrealistic expectations, self-criticism and guilt in the past. Although training for a marathon or launching a new business might not be reasonable goals, you can still start by taking things one step at a time. You’ve heard it before, but it really does ring true: The healthier and happier you are, the better a caregiver you will be.
Crystal Gonder is a member of VHA Home HealthCare’s Communications department.