Whenever you're responsible for the care of another person, whether that person is a newborn baby or an elderly parent, one of the most important ways to be of benefit is to take care of yourself. New mothers are cautioned to take time for themselves, to sleep when their babies sleep and to forgo housework and other tasks, if necessary, to assure a healthy balance for themselves. The same holds true for an individual charged with the care of a senior parent.
Making the Right Decisions
Taking on the responsibility for the well-being of an elderly relative does not diminish the need for some "Me-Time" in order to maintain balance in life and to avoid caregiver burnout. However, it is not always easy to make that time. Here are five tips that can make it easier to gain those necessary breaks without feeling guilty about time away from your loved one.
Organize. It goes without saying that organizing errands and appointments will save time and effort. Make lists and map out time blocks and routes so that you can accomplish your tasks in an organized fashion. Employ business principles to avoid crisis management. Plan ahead and try to anticipate needs. Once you implement a task management system, you'll feel better, be able to do more, and approach daily and weekly tasks from a more positive perspective.
Schedule. Pencil in time for yourself on your daily schedule. Whether you read a bit of favorite poetry over a cup of tea or relax with your feet up while enjoying your favorite music, try to set aside time to clear your head every day. It will help lighten your load. Also, schedule in a periodic "down day" to remove yourself from the caregiving routine not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
Lean on Others. When your senior care duties become overwhelming, call on friends and neighbors, coworkers, a support group, or members of your congregation for help. You'll find that many people are more than willing to lend assistance. Don't be shy about asking a neighbor to care for your pets or your plants, if necessary, while you attend to Mom's needs. Enlist others to help with grocery shopping and other necessary errands, even to provide meals on occasion. Ask old friends to visit with your loved one. It will benefit them as much as it helps you.
Engage and Enjoy. Even though senior care can become burdensome in a number of ways, it can also be uplifting and enjoyable. Look for activities that you can still enjoy with your Mom. Consider transplanting flowers into larger pots or schedule a card game. Play board games or listen to an audiobook and then discuss it. Visit an art gallery, go out for lunch, or even go together for a physical workout—say swimming or yoga. Attend a computer class or baking demonstration. You may find you share a lot of interests as well as a relationship based on genetics.
Make Away Time All about You. Caring for a relative during a serious illness can be draining and disruptive. Investigating assisted living options and making decisions is time-consuming and stressful. When you can get away from immediate concerns, do so. Pamper yourself with whatever pleases you most—a massage or a day at the spa is a sensory experience that has distinct physical benefits. A relaxing weekend brunch date with caring friends has a similar restorative effect. Even in end-of-life situations, realize that your own well-being is vitally important.
If the daily burden seems overwhelming, know that there are customized care options available in Alabama. If Mom needs more care than you can continue to provide, The Cottages will be happy to welcome her into our family.