In our last post, Ideas to Help a Caregiver Care Again, I shared ways we can recognize and work through the feelings of weariness, overwork, loneliness, etc. that sometimes plaque caregivers.
In this post, I’ll share some ideas to stay ahead of those feelings, or at least rebound once we’ve dealt with the challenging emotions and thoughts.
- Keep Well Supplied
I used to let prescriptions, or other items, run right until they were empty and then repurchase them to “save money.” Since then, I’ve decided my sanity is worth more than my money. I don’t want to spend a frantic day running all around town to pick up things one store no longer has in stock, because I have to have it right now. We don’t stockpile but do now keep our necessary medicines, OTC and personal care supplies, and basic foods on hand.
Besides the must-haves, I also stay supplied with things that bring me joy. Most often, that is a vase of cut flowers. Sometimes it’s a special treat I try to freeze or hide away for when I really need it. Can I live without those things? Absolutely. But seeing them brings a smile to my face and encouragement to my weary soul.
- Adjust Expectations
Everything will not go as planned, at least all the time. It’s a fact of life. Allowing time in the schedule for a train to pass, or a wrong turn, gives me room to breathe and stress less.
Embrace your child’s routine that seems pointless to you. It will happen whether or not you allow time for it. You’ll both leave the house happier if you aren’t trying to rush him or expect what he cannot do at this time.
Your spouse with dementia will ask the same question repeatedly. Prepare for it.
One of Jerry’s and my favorite phrases is, “Life wouldn’t be so hard if we didn’t expect it to be so easy.”
- Quick Break ideas
Caregivers often bristle at the idea of self-care or taking a break. In part because we don’t know how to, or feel we have the time. That is why I love the idea of a five-minute break. Often, that is just enough to change my perspective. Consider these ideas:
- Watch clouds roll by
- Step outside and take 3 slow deep breaths of fresh air
- Listen to a favorite song, maybe even dance to it
- Turn off all music, television, etc. and take in silence
- Pull out crayons and color or doodle
- Inhale a favorite scent, perhaps from a candle or oil
- It is in part about you
“It’s not about you” is a phrase often heard to help people see the world around them. The problem is, caregivers can take this to an extreme and ignore ourselves or our own needs. At some point, we’ll not be able to care for our loved one if we don’t care for ourselves. Take an honest look at your life and determine what is it you most need now? Rest? Exercise? More fruit? Coffee with a friend? A medical or dental appointment you’ve put off? Once you’ve identified it, do it!
- Live in Grace
Every day we wake up and take a new breath, we experience the grace of God in our lives. His gift of forgiveness of sins is the greatest evidence of grace. But I’d like to encourage you to think of grace on the human level. Another way to think of grace is courteous goodwill.
Grant grace to yourself and the one(s) you care for. It’s a bit like the application of oxygen masks on a plane. We are told to put our own on first, before we help others. We’re also told we won’t see the bag inflating, but it is working. You may not see how extending grace to yourself matters in that moment, or even that day. But as you move forward, you’ll see the results build. Does it still sound impossible to you? It is when we act alone. But reflect on 2 Corinthians 9:8
“And?God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that, always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;”
As caregivers, our feelings, schedules, and emotions will ebb and flow. Some days we’ll seem to have it all together, only to collapse the next day when something hits us out of left field. Those times are when I cling to John 16:33 and the words of Jesus:
“In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”