Demands on time and attention create further physical and emotional stress which plays havoc with your body, mind, and spirit. Sleep patterns and appetite can be negatively impacted, which in turn reduces the ability to effectively handle demands - creating a vicious circle.
There are, however, many simple and effective ways to address these challenges, not least of which is to acknowledge that you need help and are willing to not only ask for but to receive it.
Identify Your Needs
List all the tasks that need to be done, and the other ways in which you need support.
Talk with family to find out how they can contribute
Check-in your community for which services are available. As some services and programs are subsidized, determine if your loved one is eligible.
Reflect and give yourself space to grieve for the increasing loss of your loved ones' independence.
Pause and give yourself time daily to replenish your body, mind and spirit.
Permit yourself to laugh. It relieves stress and is essential to cope with the on-going demands of caregiving.
Vent in a safe space such as a local caregiver support group where everyone speaks your language.
Rallying Your Resources
After you've identified some of your immediate and longer-term needs, the first order of business is to create a team of people who are going to give you the type of support you need and deserve. At the same time, it's critical that you put in place what I've heard described as "radical self-care" habits and routines that will help you approach caregiving from a position of greatest emotional, physical and mental strength. You are worth spending the time and effort to identify and address any of your own health challenges that might be showing up as a result of your caregiving efforts.
Care for Yourself
Start with getting a thorough check up by your GP and other health service providers. Get a clear picture of your current state of health. The obvious stress of caregiving impacts your health and vise versa. It is not uncommon for caregivers to develop health challenges such as insomnia, depression, weight fluctuation, and high blood pressure.
The emphasis here is to strive for balance as so much of your time, energy and effort is focused on the needs of your elderly loved one. Often this is out of practical necessity, but the result is giving too much without allowing the space, attention, and most importantly, the self-permission to receive the replenishment you deserve.
Learning to BE in the Journey
You are the core from which you and your loved one will together share the experience of your caregiver journey, so it is crucial that you build yourself as solid a foundation as possible. This is especially important to consider for the time when your loved one has passed, your caregiver journey has ended, and you can refocus your energies towards your own quality of life. This time is an investment with a payoff that can never be measured but treasured.
© Nancy Glover | Aging With Grace www.AgingwithGrace.ca
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Nancy Glover, a healthy aging advocate, mentors extraordinary women and men who have stepped into the challenging role of caring for their elderly spouse or parent by managing their well-being in the later stages of life. Blending first-hand expertise with practical step by step systems to support the needs, goals, and desires of the elderly spouse or parent, Nancy helps caregivers maneuver the complex and often challenging role with supportive advocacy and resources that equally focus on everyone’s well-being. Learn more about her at www.agingwithgrace.ca and sign up to receive timely information and strategies to empower caregivers and families in transition.