Caregiving is such a difficult journey. As I’ve mentioned many times, it’s really easy to get so focused on what you’re doing for your loved one with dementia that you forget to take care of yourself.
The Redwood Caregiver Resource Center in Santa Rosa, California has shared some tips for caregiver self-care. I’ve added my thoughts as well. Here goes:
- Keep a good eye on your own well-being. The resource center suggests that this focus should be on physical well-being. I agree, but would also expand it to include your own mental and emotional well-being. Gauging whether you’re under too much stress or are depressed is really important. Also, know that squeezing in regular exercise can go a long way to helping maintain physical, emotional, and mental health.
- Get at least six hours of sleep each night. The stress of caregiving really can take its toll on your sleep patterns, but it’s important to try to get necessary shut-eye since it’s critically important not only to your emotional and mental health, but also your physical well-being. To achieve this, try to create a bedroom environment that nurtures sleep.
- Avoid unrealistic expectations of “constant perfection,” both of yourself and of others. I’ve heard many people talk about their expectations of caregiving. Sometimes, one family member shoulders the entire burden and then expresses frustration when no one offers to help. Other times, I’ll hear about family members and friends who only rarely visit the loved one with dementia but then chime in about what should be happening, even though they don’t have seen the daily issues in that particular caregiving situation. Based on watching these different views play out, I have come to embrace the philosophy that we can only control ourselves. Therefore, our interactions should be based on trying to do our best, while realizing that maintaining a constant level of perfect caregiving is impossible. We also should assume that others are trying their best. And if there is friction, we need to have open, honest communications so we can surface real and imagined boundaries that may be hampering caregiving. For instance, the primary caregiver may be resentful that family members and friends never offer to provide assistance. However, the caregiver may not realize that others don’t have the background knowledge or don’t know how they can help. This is where communication comes in, with the caregiver asking for specific help or the family members or friends asking for a specific task they can do.
- Be prepared to reach compromises. This statement is so true! You may have to compromise on the number of visits you can make weekly or the number of hours you’re able to work so you can take care of caregiving. Or you may have to compromise with family members about who will handle which caregiving duties or how long you can take a vacation while the family member assumes the responsibility for caregiving.
So what self-care tips would you share with Alzheimer’s caregivers?
Published On: July 18, 2011