Brenda Lyle – Hometown News
Q: Why does “self-care” matter if I’m a caregiver to someone else?
A: When we travel on an airplane, we all get the briefing on emergency procedures. It includes the instruction to “take your oxygen first” before placing the mask on another. People struggle with this idea, because it seems contrary and selfish to the caregiver role. It is NOT selfish. It is critical.
Caregiving can extract a toll physically, emotionally and financially. Often, caregivers have little control about their new role as nurse, financial manager, household manager and more. However, some control is possible with self-care.
Self-care is the group of positive things you do for yourself to stay physically and emotionally healthy. A good self-care regimen includes healthy eating, getting enough sleep and exercise and minimizing stress. Other important aspects of self-care are discussed less — setting self-actualization goals and caregiving boundaries.
First, visualize who you want to be; as a person first, and a caregiver, second. An example is, “I want to be compassionate.” Then, consider what obstacles might hinder this goal. “I am angry my husband is sick.” Clearly, anger can affect your ability to be compassionate. That’s okay — find a healthy way to express the anger. Exercise, pray, keep a journal, color with red crayons, sing at the top of your lungs in your parked car. Do whatever it takes to relieve your anger.
Now, draw healthy boundaries to reduce your anger. Are specific tasks creating those feelings? Give those to someone else. Hire a private caregiver or ask a friend to help you out. Create (and stick with) reasonable boundaries that reduce the likelihood of anger and resentment. “Occasional” boundaries will not give you the mental fortitude you need. You must exercise self-care, in an important way, every day.
Holidays can present additional challenges. Give yourself permission to simplify traditions to fit the realities of caregiving. And consider joining a support group at One Senior Place, meeting others who understand and share your journey.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to AskOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.
Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager and Certified Dementia Practitioner with One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.