I’m not a huge fan of resolutions because people tend to put too much pressure on themselves to set huge and often unattainable goals. Life as a caregiver is hard enough as it is without making yourself feel like you are not good enough or deserving of happiness. That being said, there are several caregiver resolutions that are worth your effort to try. These resolutions aren’t time-consuming or expensive, but they are about making self-care a priority to give yourself a chance to recharge and ultimately better equipped to provide care to your elderly loved one.
Practice self-care every day, no exceptions. You don’t take many days off when you provide care for your senior, and you shouldn’t forego self-care either. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean that you book a weekly massage or visit a life coach; it’s more about being mindful of those daily activities that you should practice to feel your best. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are the core activities of self-care, and we should all make more of an effort to create a daily routine that incorporates these elements.
While you’re creating a new self-care regimen, you also should schedule important preventive and diagnostic tests for another level of care. When was the last time you saw a doctor or had blood work for your cholesterol or blood sugar levels? Have you had your vision or hearing checked? Are you in need of a colonoscopy or mammogram, but you keep putting them off? When was your last flu shot? Did you get the shingles vaccine? All those essential tests you insist your loved one receive are just as important for you.
Ask For It
Help, that is. Everyone needs help, but some people shy away from asking for others to step up. Here’s the thing: your friends and family can’t read your mind, and they are not going to know you need assistance unless you speak up. What if someone ran errands for you, covered some minor expenses that usually come out of your pocket, or take a turn keeping your loved one company so you can have a break? Chances are good that you can get the support you’re missing if you share your concerns. The worst anyone can say when you ask for help is no.
The Bigger Picture
Caregiver resolutions don’t just involve taking care of physical needs; you should also resolve to take care of any overdue legal needs. As a caregiver, you have probably had your fair share of headaches stemming from power of attorney issues, lost financial records, or other pressing paperwork that had to be addressed. Take the time now to collect your important documents in one location. Imagine how much easier it will be for you to tackle any pressing paperwork if you know where to look for items such as your birth or marriage certificate, Social Security card, military records, and the like. While you’re at it, create a power of attorney, will, and advanced medical directive for you and your significant other.
Let Them Go
Take care of your emotional health this year. You can start by feeling your feelings, even the unpleasant ones. Cry when you’re sad. Get angry when you are frustrated. Grieve the changes in your relationship with your loved one. Any emotion you feel is valid, and it’s time to recognize that caregiving can be both challenging and rewarding. If you express those emotions, you can move past them, but if you suppress them, they may show up in other ways. Other tips for emotional wellbeing include finding a caregiver support group or therapist to process your emotions. You can also keep a journal; writing first thing in the morning or before you go to sleep are natural times to reflect and express.
This is a biggie, but it’s important, so don’t dismiss it right away. Take a vacation. Find a location, set a budget, and plan your activities, accommodations, and dining. You need a break, at least once a year, and your loved one will be fine when you take some time off. Between other caregivers, respite care at a facility, or other family members stepping up, you can make it work. Studies have shown the positive effects of a real vacation on mental health, so you owe it to yourself to relax and carve out time to enjoy yourself. You deserve it.
Hopefully, these caregiver resolutions are realistic and doable for your life. Even if you just focus on one or two, you are taking steps to change your relationship with caregiving and understand that you can find balance in your life when you take care of yourself too.