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Caregiving Resolutions: 5 Ways to Care for Yourself in 2016

Now that the bustle of the holidays and the year-end chores are behind us, January is the perfect time to pause, take stock of our lives, and recharge our batteries before life kicks back into high gear for the spring.

For caregivers, this means taking a few moments to care of yourself. Any way you slice it, caregiving is an important—but difficult—job, whether you’re tending full time to an ailing parent or spouse, or just checking in on an older friend or relative for occasional assistance.

To avoid burning out, here are five ways caregivers can prepare for the year ahead:

1. Recognize caregiving is a difficult job.
For many, caregiving might come naturally. You love your relative, and it’s human instinct to help them when they are in need. Along with the natural caregiving impulse, however, you may also feel a sense of duty to care for someone who at another time in life worked hard to care for you.

Regardless of your motivation, caregiving is tough, and can take its toll on a family. After all, you may still have your full-time career to focus on, or your own spouse or children who need your time and attention as well. In fact, according to the 2015 Cost of Care study by Genworth, 60 percent of caregivers share that caregiving was having a negative impact on their job.

With all these obligations, you might feel overwhelmed and even resentful. This is normal, and it’s important for caregivers to recognize you only have so much time in the day and can only accomplish so much. It’s all right if you can’t get to everything, and it’s fine to set priorities.

2. Take care of your body.
When our lives get hectic, sleep and good nutrition are often the first things to go. It may work for the short run to live off six hours of sleep at night and to eat meals in the car as you scoot from one obligation to the next. But too many days of this lifestyle will completely wreck your health.

In the short run, lack of proper sleep takes a negative toll on your mind. You might believe you are thinking straight, but research shows people who sleep less than eight hours a night perform worse on tests than those who get plenty of rest. In the long run, lack of sleep can lead to chronic stress as well as myriad physical ailments.

In addition to aiming for seven or eight hours of sleep a night, it is critical to eat a well balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables. You will feel better and stave off disease, which will make you better able to care for others.

3. Make time for yourself.
According to the same study from Genworth, 33 percent of caregivers spend 30 or more hours per week on caregiving. In addition to proper nutrition and plenty of rest, it’s important for all of us to take a few moments every week to do something we enjoy just for ourselves. Maybe it’s a date night out or a shopping trip or a trip to the movies, but these moments make the difference in keeping our lives in balance.

It’s easy to say, “Eat well, get plenty of sleep and do something fun every week,” but when we get busy and stressed, it’s even easier to say, “I’ll take care of that when I have time.” Unfortunately, thanks to the full schedules and constant connectivity of modern life, there will never be enough time unless you consciously carve it out for yourself.

If you are constantly running from one place to the next, one meeting to another, consider blocking off time on your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself and work your other obligations around that appointment, same as you would any other meeting. This simple act of commitment can make the difference between thinking about doing something and actually doing it.

4. Look for small changes in your life.
As you take a look at your schedule and your to-do list, is there anything someone around you can do to make your life easier? What if you ordered dinner a few nights a week? Are there any meetings or appointments you could cancel? What happens if one of your to-dos just doesn’t get done?

The changes don’t have to be huge, but taking one small thing off your to-do list might give you the necessary headwind to tackle everything else with ease. It’s also OK to ask for help on occasion. Caregiving is stressful, and feeling like you are alone compounds the stress. Your friends and loved ones are here to help you, but they might not know how they can help unless you ask.

5. Find out whether Bethesda Senior Living Communities can help.
At Bethesda Senior Living Communities, our faith-based mission means all of our team members practice selfless service. We are here for our residents and their families, and we do everything we can to help caregivers navigate the transition from independent to assisted living.

One option to consider is our respite, or short-term, care services. All of our communities offer temporary assisted living with no long-term contract or obligation. Residents receive the same around-the-clock care as our permanent assisted living residents, and caregivers enjoy a much-needed break from the daily stresses of caring for a loved one in need.

A short-term stay for your loved one can give you the time you need to recharge and regroup, which is better for everyone in the long run. To learn more about respite programs near you, visit one of our communities today and see what it means to experience inspired service.