A little advice on taking care of the caregiver (YOU)
I’ll admit it. I was NOT prepared for becoming a caregiver for my aging mother. No instructional classes, no heads up, no advice from family or friends and no penciling in “Take care of Momma” on my calendar. The job fell into my lap. And I’m here to tell you, it’s a 24/7 always on call, type of job.
When I’m not out shopping, scanning the aisles for items not on the list because she forgot to write them down, I’m mowing her lawn, trimming her rose bushes, balancing her checkbook and scheduling her medical appointments. Or secretly tailgating her when she’s taken an unauthorized ride around the neighborhood in her old, rusty bike.
Then there’s the mental side of caregiving. Not a minute goes by where the thought of Momma doesn’t cross my mind. Can I make her safer? Did I forget to take out her trash? Even when I’m out to dinner with friends, I’m thinking, “Should I take some home for Momma? Would she like beef tips over rice.”
In other words, From Day One, caregiving saturated every part of my being. I didn’t get to slide into the role, but jumped in with both feet; I hit the ground running an have never even had a second to look back.
Being on 24/7 #MommaWatch has taught me a few things about myself.
As a caregiver, I never get a break. As a man, caring for my momma, I’m not going to admit I need a break. But you know what?
I need a break. And if you’re a caregiver like me, you need a break too. This isn’t a suggestion. It’s mandatory. The caregiver can’t effectively take care of Momma if he isn’t on his game.
Still don’t believe me? Check out these staggering statistics on caregivers of dementia patients:
According to Caring.com, a senior resource website, caregivers of dementia patients suffer more than those caring for others.
- 22% of family caregivers are in debt from dementia caregiving.
- A stunning 97% of family caregivers say their personal (marriage and friendship) relationships have suffered or even ended as a result of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- 76% say their emotional well-being has declined as a result of Alzheimer’s or dementia caregiving, and 55% say their physical health has declined.
- 56% of caregivers have had to quit their job or say their career has been negatively affected by their caregiving duties.
So what can you do?
Gather your team – once you realize you’ll become a caregiver, you’ll need a support team. Connect with family and friends. When you need to vent or cry, you don’t want to unload on one person.
Laugh Out Loud -I know. Who laughs on demand? How can you force a spontaneous reaction? But you can incorporate activities you know bring a smile to your face. Text a friend, watch a comedy, play with a kindergartener. You get my point. Not only will laughter make you feel better, but laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and, believe it or not, laughter improves your cardio health! (Gaiam.com; 7 Benefits to Laughter).
Meditate – Even if you aren’t a church-goer, you can sign up for yoga, pick up a book on Mindfulness, or find your favorite outdoors spot and commune with nature.
Your health – Visit the doctor regularly, eat a healthy diet and get exercise. When you are on #MommaWatch, you’ll tell yourself you don’t have time for things like a plate of vegetables and baked chicken. But it’s paramount you keep your health up. As little of ten minutes of exercise is better than none. In just ten minutes, you can improve heart health, brain function, bone health, burn calories and more. (WiseBread.com Ten Surprising Benefits of a Ten Minute Walk).
Hobbies – It might seem selfish to go on a fishing trip when Momma needs ‘round the clock care, but engaging in a hobby will make you a better caregiver. Hobbies relieve stress, keep you in the present, challenge your mind and body and give you joy!
Remember, you’re in this for the long haul. Take care of YOU. Better yet, always ask yourself, whosgonnatakecareofme.
Many of these suggestions are common sense, but when you’re knee-deep in #MommaCare, it can be difficult to realize just how stressed out you’ve become.