Caring for a loved one or an aging parent who is ill or disabled is often deeply rewarding. But it can also consume a lot of time, as well as physical and emotional energy. It’s important to care for yourself before you burn out. I know this first hand as I witness my mother struggling through the days of the week to care for my dementia ailing father that is still living in our family home.
My mom was always the one to brought structure to our home; she made birthdays, Christmas and Easter special. She was the one we knew to go to for permission and the one my brother, sister and I did not want to have on our bad side! She is the one we depended on the most—the monarch of our family.
Now as the dynamics change for her and my father, she is not only an amazing mother and a wife, but she has also become the banker, accountant, yard maintenance worker, full time cook, cleaner, grocery shopper, errand runner, administrator of medications and of course my dad’s “personal assistant”. My mom is not part of a team any longer as my father is unable to start or complete a task to help her or tackle it like a duo as they used to do.
Working with Plan A and educating and promoting self-care to our PSWs and registered staff, I have learned how tremendously important it is for them to take and make time for self-care in their lives, and for my mother to now do the same.
As any caregiver, you need to take responsibility for your own care as well and understand that it is not selfish to do so. Hopefully the simple steps I have listed below will remind you how important your well being is, too.
- Accept & ask for help: You don’t have to “do it all” yourself. Have more than one person involved in caregiving to help take some of the load off of you. It can be a simple as accompanying your loved one to appointments, helping with housework, or cooking dinner once or twice a week. Never be afraid to ask other family members to lend a hand…and if someone asks if they can pitch in, don’t be afraid to say yes!
- As simple as a walk: Frequent exercise has many health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure or cholesterol, as well as clear your mind and boost your mood. Plus, your dog will love it!
- Take the Time: It’s important to take time to yourself and do things you love, without feeling guilty. This can be done in many ways, such as calling up a friend or family member, scheduling regular lunches or movie dates with friends. Another great idea is to ask close friends and family to drop by and visit with your loved one so that you can take a break and your loved one can enjoy some great company. It’s also a good time to take that walk!
- Relax and enjoy yourself: Listen to music you love, take a luxurious bath, catch up on some sleep, or treat yourself to a massage—you deserve it! You can also learn how to meditate effectively or practice yoga to help clear your mind.
- Nutrition: Eating healthy is the best way to maintain your strength and energy. This also helps to remain positive during difficult and frustrating times.
My mom is getting a little better with her own self care. She accepts help from her family, and thanks neighbours and friends for their willingness to be there should she need them when we can’t be. She has learned that not everything has to be done in one day. She sometimes struggles when it comes to taking time to rest when she is tired, but I don’t think that will ever change.
One thing I know for sure is she is an amazing woman, and in my eyes has taken on the world, and she did so when Dementia took over her spouse, their retirement, their home and her life.