New Year’s Resolutions for Caregivers
By Trish Hughes Kreis for Assisted Living Directory
What better time than the beginning of a new year to make some resolutions? After all, it is tradition! For caregivers, though, the resolutions may look a little different than the usual “lose weight” or “exercise more.”
New Year’s resolutions for caregivers might look more like this:
- Stay (or become) Organized. Caregivers not only take care of themselves but often also have children to care for as well as the loved one who needs assistance. Keeping daily logs updated, appointments scheduled and calendared as well as keeping health and insurance files organized is critical. Becoming and staying organized is a lifelong process, not something that is ‘one and done.’
- Learn, Learn, Learn. Caregivers give the best possible care when they know as much as possible about the disease or disorder they are dealing with. Do your own research and talk with your loved one’s medical team. Ask as many questions as you want and then ask even more. Write your questions down as you think of them and then figure out who might know the answer (The general practitioner? The specialist? The Nurse Practitioner? Ms. Google?).
- Advocate. Advocating for excellent care for your loved one is part of being a caregiver. However, advocating is also for you. You might find you have a knack for advocacy and you recognize what needs to be changed in the health system, or the way government agencies are run or what laws need to be changed in order to help caregivers or those they care for. Taking on a cause might seem overwhelming but it can be so rewarding you may not even notice. It will absolutely be worth it
- Connect. Connecting with other caregivers can help in ways you may not have thought possible. Other caregivers can provide practical help when you are faced with the unknown but they can also be a lifeline and a terrific support system. Whether you connect online or at an in-person support group, do not be surprised if you wind up with life-long friends. It is essential to your soul to connect with others who have been where you are right now.
- Become Involved. Find an organization that relates to your caregiving situation. There are most likely many groups with information and resources for the particular disease or disorder you are handling. You don’t have to join the Board of Directors but at least get on a mailing list or check out their website. You will feel less alone and will find many resources and educational materials that may help in your caregiving situation.
- Be Kind. Of course, we should be kind to others and to the loved one we care for but we also need to remember to be kind to ourselves. Sometimes we are our toughest critic which helps absolutely no one. Be gentle with yourself, forgive yourself and remember how important you are. You deserve to be kind to yourself
- Let Go. Oh, the impatience we have sometimes! Always followed by a huge helping of guilt. Let it go. Caregivers are overworked, exhausted and stressed. We are definitely going to lose it sometimes. Let it go and try again tomorrow. (Re-read #5 if necessary.)
- Listen to Your Inner Voice. That inner voice of yours knows when something is not right. That inner voice knows when a doctor is being dismissive. Listen to that inner voice when it is screaming that your loved one needs better treatment or care. Don’t push that voice aside – know that if something doesn’t feel or sound quite right then it probably isn’t.
- Step Out of the Negativity. Whether the negative talk is in a group, with one other person or swirling around in your head, step away from it. Negative talk can keep you stuck and can use up your valuable (and mostly limited) resources. Caregivers don’t need to walk around in the muck. Vent and get it out but don’t dwell on it. Get mad the pharmacy didn’t have your medications ready or your relative didn’t help out like they had promised. Those things are awful! Acknowledge how awful they are and then take action: fix the mistake; talk to the relative. Then step away from the negativity.
- Ignore the Shoulds. We can tell ourselves we “should” be able to handle this problem. We should be able to do this alone. We should be able to do everything. Others tell us we should take care of ourselves. We should not be so impatient. Ignore all of the shoulds. All of them! Including everything written here! If these resolutions do not personally speak to you or feel right to you, then ignore them! Do not let others tell you what you should be doing or feeling. You know. You are in charge of you.
Caregivers are certainly not ordinary people so we cannot have any old, ordinary New Year’s resolutions. We need our own set of extraordinary resolutions. Let these be a start to an amazing year!
Wishing you a year full of love, care and dreams and if you can squeeze it in, a little bit of rest and a whole lot of smiles.
Photo by Q.Dombrowski
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