When the new year is “2020” it brings up all sorts of interesting connotations; perfect vision being among them. With that theme in mind, what is your vision as a caregiver for 2020? Just an extension of 2019? Another year of more giving and less taking for yourself? While that may seem heroic, it can wear you down to a point where you are no longer effective as a caregiver, let alone be the healthy person you owe it to yourself to be. This is especially true when you are caring for a loved one with dementia. That is why it is so important for caregivers to attend to their own needs, as well as those of the loved one they are caring for. And it’s not always easy!
Here is a short checklist compiled from a variety of sources, including our own. While you may not be able to tackle all of these at once, you should try your best to get started on at least a few of them:
- Find a dementia support group. Resident families tell us that these groups have become a lifeline for them as they struggle to cope with day to day issues. They look forward to those monthly get togethers with other caregivers to share their feelings and find renewed strength by reaching out and helping others. Anthem Memory Care communities conduct regular dementia support groups.
- Make plans for at least two to three respite breaks for 2020. Respite care is an arrangement wherein your loved one stays in a memory care community for a couple of weeks or longer. While these are short stays they enable family caregivers to take time to attend to personal needs. Whether it’s scheduling those doctor and dentist visits you’ve been putting off, getting together with friends and families, or taking a trip; all are ways of helping you maintain physical and emotional strength in your challenging role of caregiver.
- Start a journal. Journals are a constructive way to pour out your frustrations in a way that releases pent up tensions. When you write down a problem on paper it gives you a greater sense of control over it, rather than letting it grow out of proportion. You don’t need to write every day but try to post regularly. You may come to find journaling great therapy and look forward to dumping out the days problems on paper, rather than holding them inside.
- Learn yoga and/or meditation. It’s easier now than ever, as there are plenty of online sessions available as well as local studios. The relaxation techniques from both of these disciplines will help guide you through stressful days and have the potential to bring you lifelong emotional support.
- Give yourself a positive affirmation every day (more often if possible). If you develop the habit of stopping periodically and thanking yourself for the help you are giving your loved one, you will find yourself to be more focused on the positive things that happen each day, rather than the negative ones.
It takes time and plenty of restarts to get on track with anything new. So don’t chastise yourself when you miss a support group meeting or have some gaps in your journaling. You are human and perfection should not be your goal.
Instead, what you should focus your attention on is finding ways to create a healthier, stronger and happier “you” in 2020. That takes time and patience. So make sure you are surrounding yourself with positive people who can be supportive on this most challenging of journeys.
Your life as a caregiver can’t be boiled down to a simple checklist. But, as with the old Chinese proverb of “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, the new year is a great time to start something fresh. Do this for yourself. Your loved one will benefit as well.