FIRST, CARE FOR YOURSELF
On an airplane, an oxygen mask descends in front of you. What do you do? As we all know, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before your assist anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important and one of the most often forgotten things you can do as a caregiver. When your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too.
EFFECTS OF CAREGIVING ON HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
Sleep Deprivation Poor Eating Habits Failure to Exercise
Failure to stay in bed when ill
Postponement of or failure to make medical appointments for themselves
Family caregivers are also at increased risk for depression and excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Caregiving can be an emotional roller coaster. On the one hand, caring for your family member demonstrates love and commitment and can be a very rewarding personal experience. On the other hand, exhaustion, worry, inadequate resources, and continuous care demands are enormously stressful. Caregivers are more likely to have a chronic illness than are non-caregivers, namely high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a tendency to be overweight. Studies show that an estimated 46 percent of caregivers are clinically depressed.
IDENTIFING PERSONAL BARRIERS
Do you think you are being selfish if you put your needs first?
Is it frightening to think of your own needs? What is the fear about?
Do you have trouble asking for what you need? Do you feel inadequate if you ask for help?
Do you feel you have to prove that you are worthy of the care recipient’s affection? Do you do too much as a result?
Sometimes caregivers have misconceptions that increase their stress and get in the way of good self-care. Here are some of the most commonly expressed:
I am responsible for my parent’s health. If I don’t do it, no one will.
If I do it right, I will get the love, attention, and respect that I deserve. Our family always takes care of their own.
I promised my father I would always take care of my mother.
Because we base our behavior on our thoughts and beliefs, attitudes and misconceptions like those noted above can cause caregivers to continually attempt to do what cannot be done, to control what cannot be controlled. The result is feelings of continued failure and frustration and, often, an inclination to ignore your own needs. Ask yourself what might be getting in your way and keeping you from taking care of yourself.
Once you’ve started to identify any personal barriers to good self-care, you can begin to change your behavior, moving forward one small step at a time. Following are some effective tools for self-care that can start you on your way.
TOOL #1 Reducing Personal Stress
Steps for Managing Stress
- Recognize warning signs
- Identify sources of
- Identify what you can and cannot
TOOL #2 Setting Goals
Examples of Setting Goals
- Take a break from
- Get help with caregiving tasks like bathing & preparing
- Engage in activities that will make you feel more
- Goals are generally too big to work on all at
TOOL #3 Seeking Solutions
Steps for Seeking Solutions
- Identify the
- List possible
- Select one solution from the Then try it!
- Evaluate the Ask yourself how well your choice worked.
- Try a second If your first idea didn’t work, select another.
- Use other resources. Ask friends, family members,
- If nothing seems to help, accept that the problem may not be solvable You can revisit it at another time.
TOOL #4 Communicating Constructively
- Use “I” messages rather than “you”
- Respect the rights and feelings of
- Be clear and Speak directly to the person.
- Be a good Listening is the most important aspect of communication.
TOOL #5 Asking for and Accepting Help
Tips on How to Ask
- Consider the person’s special abilities and
- Resist asking the same person
- Pick the best time to make a
- Prepare a list of things that need
- Be prepared for hesitance or
- Avoid weakening your request
Tool #6 Talking to the Physician
Tips on Communicating with Your Physician
- Prepare questions ahead of
- Enlist the help of the
- Make sure your appointment meets your
- Call Before the appointment, check to see if the doctor is on schedule.
- Take someone with
- Use assertive communication and “I”
TOOL #7 Starting to Exercise
You may be reluctant to start exercising, even though you’ve heard it’s one of the healthiest things you can do. Exercise promotes better sleep, reduces tension and depression, and increases energy and alertness.
Walking, one of the best and easiest exercises, is a great way to get started.
TOOL #8 Learning from Our Emotions
Caregiving often involves a range of emotions. Some feelings are more comfortable than others. When you find that your emotions are intense, they might mean the following:
- That you need to make a change in your caregiving
- That you are grieving a
- That you are experiencing increased
- That you need to be assertive and ask for what you
Remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver-it’s an important part of the job. You are responsible for your own self-care. Focus on the following self-care practices:
Learn and use stress-reduction techniques, e.g. meditation, prayer, yoga, Tai Chi. Attend to your own healthcare needs.
Get proper rest and nutrition.
Exercise regularly even if only for 10 minutes at a time. Take time off without feeling guilty.
Participate in pleasant, nurturing activities, such as reading a good book, taking a warm bath. Seek and accept the support of others.
Seek supportive counseling when you need it, or talk to a trusted counselor, friend, or pastor. Identify and acknowledge your feelings, you have a right to ALL of them.
Change the negative ways you view situations. Set goals.
IT’S UP TO YOU!