Being a caregiver to a senior or a loved one is a rewarding and worthwhile job. It is also not always an easy job; the pressure of looking after someone can be physically and mentally draining. With the start of 2016 comes the opportunity to restart and refresh with a New Year’s resolution. This year, consider resolving to focus on accomplishing a few simple, reasonable goals as a caregiver.
So what goals should you consider incorporating into your resolution? Start with the basics: take care of yourself, then take care of others.
Goal 1: Take Care of Yourself Physically
One of the best things you can do for yourself as a caregiver is make sure you are up-to-date on your immunizations. Get your flu shot yearly. The influenza virus mutates, so you need the newest version of the vaccine every year in order to protect yourself and the people around you from flu. FluMist, a live vaccine nasal spray, is also available, but it is not recommended for anyone over age 50.
If you have not had any immunizations in a while, there are two other shots you might want to consider getting. The first shot is the Td (Tetanus and Diphtheria) vaccine. The CDC recommends that all adults update their Td boosters every 10 years. If you are going to be around small children or if you have never received a dose of the Tdap vaccine (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis, or whooping cough), start by first getting a dose of the Tdap vaccine, then follow up with the Td vaccine every 10 years.
The second shot you should consider is the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine protects against bacterium that can cause certain types of pneumonia (lung infection), blood infections, and meningitis (infection of the brain and spinal cord). In adults, this vaccine is recommended for everyone over age 65, and for adults ages 19 through 64 who smoke or have asthma. You may want to check with your doctor first to see if you were vaccinated as a child.
Other than immunizations, the best things you can do to insure your good health and the good health of those around you is to wash your hands often with soap and water, avoid contact with sick people whenever possible, and if you do get sick, stay home and rest until you are well.
Goal 2: Take Care of Yourself Mentally
Everyone needs a break sometimes. Everyone needs help. One of the best things you can do for yourself as a caregiver is to accept that it is ok to feel overwhelmed and know that it is ok to ask for help when you need it. Always ask for help when you need it! There are people in your life who are willing to help you care for yourself while you look after your senior or loved one. Find those people.
If you have not already, consider having a support group, somewhere to talk out the ideas and the emotions that come with being a caregiver. Your support group can come from anywhere: family, friends, a therapist, an online support group. Trying to go it alone can be too much of a strain on one person and can take your focus away from the person for whom you are caring.
Try to work a quiet time into some part of your day. It does not have to be a very long time. During those moments that you do have to yourself, take a few quick minutes and allow yourself to close your eyes, breathe, and recharge. A quick quiet time can clear your head and help you focus better on the tasks that you need to accomplish during the day.
Goal 3: Keep Learning
As a caregiver, it is important that you continue to add to your knowledge of caregiving. One of the ways you can do this is by taking courses in caregiving. Many colleges offer online courses in caregiving. Consider taking one every year or every few years to refresh. Proper CPR training is also very important when caring for someone. Your CPR certification usually needs to be renewed every one to two years. You can find CPR certification courses at a local hospital, college, or through a private organization.
Another way you can add to your knowledge of caregiving is through good reading material. A great book to consider is “The Caregiver’s Handbook” by DK Publishing. This book is available in both print and eBook. If your senior or loved one has a specific medical condition, ask their doctor what books they recommend on that condition.
Goal 4: Take Care of Others
Now that you have taken care of yourself, it is time to focus on your senior or loved one. There are several things that are already part of the daily routine, for example, keeping track of medications and doctor’s visits. These routines are known and require your attention constantly, year-round, so they are harder to forget to focus on.
One thing that can easily be overlooked is making sure to focus on the finances of your senior or loved one. Partner with a banker who you trust and let them help you. Proper money management and awareness of finances is important for everyone. If your senior or loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, they are more likely to fall victim to scams. Know what access they have to their funds. If they do have access, stay on top of their spending. Be aware and helpful.
Finally, while medications and money are important, as a caregiver, it is also important to remember that sometimes, just being there is the most important thing of all. Be present. You are caring for another human being. One day, someone will very likely be caring for you. It is a big job. It is an important job. Every day, you help make a difference in someone else’s life. Cheers to you this New Year.