Thursday, May 17, 2018
6 Do’s and Don’ts of Self-Care for New Caregivers
Being a new caregiver can come with a unique set of stresses as you shift much of your life to focus on someone else. Research has shown that stress can impact both your physical health and mental health. Here are some important self-care reminders that keep you healthy and happy, as well as help maximize your caregiving abilities.
Do Find a Communication Outlet
Many new caregivers are faced with a set of experiences and challenges that are difficult to anticipate, and finding someone who is willing to listen or help is often a powerful source of comfort. Express yourself and talk about your feelings or experiences. It can help you identify solutions to difficulties you may run into and cope with your new responsibilities.
A 2016 report from the Health and Wellness Division of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reports that counseling and self-care can contribute to the overall health of the caregiver as well as the person being cared for. Some people find that talking to a counselor is most beneficial, while other find that simply having a friend to talk to is sufficient.
Don’t Shut Yourself Off from Friends
The New York Times highlighted one of the most prominent problems some caregivers might encounter: social isolation. Isolation can become acute as you focus constantly on the person or people under your care.
Meaningful, healthy relationships help you recharge and continue being an effective caregiver. Focus on maintaining current social ties that you have, such as a book group, a church group, friends you exercise with, or any other wholesome source.
Do Make Something Tasty
The deadlines that come with being a new caregiver can make you feel like it’s almost impossible to eat well. As you settle into your new caregiving responsibilities, it can be hard to find time to make food every day or to eat well all the time. A little meal prep can go a long way.
Even if you just plan a couple of meals each week, preparing them when you have a little down time minimizes the time required later in the week. Additionally, being able to treat yourself to a healthy dish that you really enjoy can be an excellent way to shed some stress and just unwind.
Do Build Mental Resilience
As a new caregiver, you might experience difficulty with personal care issues like feeding or dressing, and it’s important to think through these experiences in advance to come up with ways to make it easier.
There are lots of great resources, such as help groups both online and as meetups, where people are going through similar things to you and can help you find ways to deal with challenges that arise. Take a look at what you’re doing right, too. It helps you identify progress you’re making and can contribute to resilience.
When you’re stressed out, it might be tempting to reach for the bottle or take medication that helps numb the pain. However, these can be highly addictive. A recent study showed that caregivers who take care of patients with heavy burdens are likelier than the control group of caregivers to consume antidepressants. Caregivers who care for dementia patients need to especially utilize self-care, which includes avoiding excessive alcohol and drug use.
Do Something That Makes You Laugh
Whether you watch a favorite episode from a sitcom you love or you snuggle in for a night reading a funny book, laughing lightens the responsibilities of caregiving. A recent HuffPost article highlighted how important it is to take your caregiver role seriously while also not beating yourself up or taking things personally. Being able to decompress at the end of the day by laughing can help you avoid burnout.
It’s easy to lose yourself as you settle into your caregiver role. Take steps to make sure that you care for yourself; it’ll make you a far more effective and capable caregiver.
Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.
God Bless & Keep You & This Country of Ours!
PS> as you know I am not a caregiver but suffer from Alzheimer's and Dementia. Harry approached me and asked if he could write an article for my blog, well there it is.