New Year’s Resolutions for Caregivers
Below are 5 New Year's resolutions for caregivers.
1. Remember the good times. Help those you care for remember them too.
Should old acquaintance be forgotten and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgotten and auld lang syne? The title phrase in the famous song, Auld Lang Syne, came from a Scottish poem, and basically means “old long since” or “times gone by.” Should we forget old acquaintances and times gone by? I, for one, don’t think so. At least, I think we should hang onto fond memories as tightly as we possibly can for as long as we can.
Often, people with Alzheimer’s have their best moments while living through their old memories even when they may not know what happened today or last week. Old photos or songs can take a person with Alzheimer's right back to such great times. It is so easy to get wrapped up in daily difficulties. Take time to remember the good moments and relive them with those you care for.
2. Give yourself a break!
You’re not a superhero. Well, maybe you are, but superheroes need breaks too. Holidays can be especially stressful for a caregiver. If you have made it through the season, you deserve to kick your feet up for a moment. Being a caregiver is not a 9-5 job, and there is generally no overtime pay, especially for a live-in caregiver. If possible, take shifts with other family members or nursing assistants. Give yourself a little room to breathe and relax.
Recharge your batteries. If you wear yourself down too much, you won’t be much good for anyone else. Take time to sit down and enjoy meals. You can’t live on coffee fumes alone. You give selflessly every day, and you need to make room for a little self care now and then.
3. Journal daily.
This is one I wish I had done more of. It may have saved me some struggles in the long run. Some behaviors that people with Alzheimer's experience can be real head-scratchers. There is a lot of research to be done while finding “new normals” for those who have dementia. Journaling takes some of the leg work out of the process. Keeping simple records of behaviors along with events of the day can be so helpful.
Maybe not immediately, but in time patterns start to emerge in daily occurrences that otherwise seem fairly mundane. Journaling can help expose certain triggers. Now, I’m not saying the unpredictable things go away entirely. They don’t. However, if this simple little thing can help even a little bit, it’s worth it.
4. Make new friends.
If you already have friends who are dealing with similar situations, that’s great. If not, it may be time to join a community of those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Nothing quite replaces talking with someone who knows what it’s like to walk in your shoes. Friends who are caregivers are an invaluable resource. Along with the perks of friendship comes validation, camaraderie, understanding, and sound advice.
Having someone to vent to should not be underestimated either. This stuff gets frustrating, ugly, and messy. Caregivers understand. It can also be cathartic to be someone else’s rock and sounding board. Join a group or community in which you can give and take. You will reap major benefits while gaining the satisfaction of helping others.
Forgive yourself and forgive those you care for. Caregiving is one of the hardest jobs you will ever have, but likely isn’t a cakewalk for your loved one with Alzheimer's either. There will be forgetfulness, confusion, anger, and outbursts. You may have a few of those issues yourself occasionally. Craziness is abundant.
Everyone involved will have mess-ups. It is all so exhausting for everyone involved. Ultimately, this wild ride isn’t your fault, and it isn’t theirs either. Just be glad you get to share a seat and do the best you can. You’re human. So are they. Make forgiveness part of your daily routine.
What are your New Year's resolution(s)? Leave a comment below!
Do you know of a resource that could be helpful to the community?