Being a caregiver is hard! There are a variety of challenges a caregiver faces daily from numerous appointments to the constant uncertainty if the decisions you are making for your loved one are the best option. Life can be stressful with the everyday routines that require bathing, dressing, feeding, and medication monitoring. When is a caregiver supposed to take care of him or herself?
In my almost 18 years of various levels of caregiving, I can tell you the importance of finding the time to take care of yourself. Whether you need a nap to catch up on missed sleep, or a chance to take a walk to get some fresh air, I beg you to find the time. Taking time for yourself will minimize caregiver burnout and increase your effectiveness for making sound decisions. It will provide you with longer periods of patience and compassion that your loved one deserves.
A few of my favorite “me time” activities are:
- Taking a long hot shower followed by resting in a dimly lit room where aromatherapy candles provide relaxing smells while I listen to my favorite instrumental station playing on Pandora
- Painting pottery at one of those stores where the staff will clean up after me
- Taking a walk at a nearby park, or sometimes just around my block
- Eating a meal out at a restaurant where I don’t have to cook or clean
- Watching a movie without interruptions
The amount of time away from the caregiver role does not have to be a long period of time. More important is the frequency and consistency of taking time away. Having a strong support system is key to being away and being able to relax. Friends and family may be willing to spend an hour or two with your loved one if you ask.
If you don’t have friends or family available, look online to see if a local agency related to your loved one’s diagnosis, such as the Alzheimer’s Association or Gilda’s Club. These non-profit organizations have support groups that include respite care to allow caregivers the opportunity to attend group sessions and get a break.
Asking for help is a sign of strength and emotional intelligence. Give it a try, and treat yourself with the self-care your loved one would want you to have.