- Enlist the help of your entire family. If your relatives live locally, don’t leave their visits to chance. Develop a monthly schedule so that they make regular, planned visits to your loved one. This affords you predetermined time away from your duties so that you can schedule time for activities and appointments. If you know in advance when your loved one will have visitors, you will be able to maximize your free time. If your family members live out of town, ask them when they plan to come for a visit. This may be a good time for you to schedule that much-needed vacation or just to have a luxurious, carefree weekend.
- Pay close attention to your moods and feelings. Research has shown that 30 – 40 percent of individuals who provide care for someone with dementia suffer from depression. Depression in caregivers can manifest into a variety of symptoms – for example, a change in eating habits, feeling tired all the time, loss of interest in people or activities that once brought you pleasure, a change in sleeping patterns, ongoing physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek professional help from a doctor or counselor. Help can also be found through local and national Alzheimer’s and dementia organizations. Stay attuned to your feelings and don’t feel guilty or selfish if you decide to seek help. Be kind to yourself and know that you are not alone. Many individuals in your situation have benefited from professional support.
- Devote time to pursue your passions. Even though you are busy, take time to enjoy your favorite hobbies and interests. Find ways to channel your creative energy or learn something new. Take French lessons or that pottery class that you have talked about for years. Unleash your inner artist. Be courageous. Create something beautiful or read a new poem each day. Nourish your soul with whatever you find extraordinary and meaningful.
- Write in a daily journal. Take time each day to write down your concerns and feelings. This will allow you to stay in touch with your concerns and feelings. This will allow you to stay in touch with your authentic self. Research shows that journaling reduces stress and provides an outlet to freely express thoughts and feelings. It provides a neutral forum in which we can vent and resolve feelings of conflict with individuals or our current situation. By writing about our problems, we are better able to pinpoint their source and find appropriate solutions.
- Lighten your load by taking advantage of eligible services that are available to your loved one – for example, financial support, county nursing assistance, Meals on Wheels, and Medicare-provided home health services.
- Seek spiritual guidance. If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider making an appointment to talk to your pastor, rabbi, or priest. Ask that others remember you in their prayers.
- Make exciting plans for the future. Schedule pleasurable events in the future so that you have something to anticipate. Buy tickets to a play or musical performance that will be appearing in your town.
- Pamper yourself. Treat yourself to activities that reduce your stress. Spend a day at a health spa. Watch a favorite movie. Soak in a warm bubble bath. Schedule a full body massage. Do whatever relaxes you and feels luxurious.
When you became a caregiver you answered a calling. Learn to honor yourself as you do your loved one. Because in the end, no one deserves it more than you.