10 New year requirements for all caregivers

You’re tired, you’re stressed–You and 45 million or so American caregivers. So what are you going to do about it? Don’t say that “I don’t have time to take care of myself.” I’ve been there and done that. But I always promised myself that I was not going to be a martyr and sacrifice my health for my husband’s illness. Because if both of us went done that wasn’t going to serve any purpose, least of all our children. They were barely adults when my husband was in the throes of Alzheimer’s disease. They needed at least one healthy parent. And whether you are taking care of a spouse, parent or child, there are other people in your life who love and need you, not necessarily to take care of them, but to love and support them emotionally.

When you are a caregiver, it’s hard to find the time to go to the gym or even take a shower, somedays. But it’s absolutely vital that you take care of yourself or you will end up getting sick and then who will take care of your loved one? Who will take care of YOU?

Here are 10 easy ways to take the edge off your stress and fatigue so you feel some relief.

  • Say a positive affirmation before you get out of bed. “This day is going to be a good one.” “I am grateful for my friends and family.” “I am healthy and full of energy.” “I am strong and competent.” Say something positive to set the tone of the day.
  • Before you reach for a cup of coffee, drink a glass of hot water with lemon. It hydrates your body and brain, the lemon helps to alkalize the system (yes, it’s counter intuitive), which is usually too acidic, and it helps with regularity.
  • Ask for help! You don’t have to do it all by yourself. No one is going to think badly of you if you take some time for yourself. If your loved one resents your going out, it’s okay. Don’t become a slave to their wishes and rants. If you can’t leave your loved one alone, please ask a neighbor, friend or home care professional to help at least a couple hours a week. Some social service programs provide free respite care.
  • Many cities throughout the U.S. offer volunteer snowbusters (volunteers who will shovel your walk and driveway), fix-it volunteers who will help with easy home repairs, and yard maintenance volunteers.
  • Meet a friend for a chat over coffee. Having a good chat and/or laugh, either via telephone or in person does wonders.
  • Find a walking partner in your neighborhood and try to walk at least once a week (preferably 3 times a week).
  • Put on a CD, vinyl record or the radio and listen to your favorite music. If your care partner is mobile, ask him/her to dance. There is nothing like music or dance to uplift the spirit.
  • Use essential oils to immediately diffuse feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, etc. Lavender oil is the most frequently used fragrance. You can also try bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, orange, clary sage, geranium, rose, and ylang ylang, frankincense, and myrrh. Put the oil in a diffuser or spray bottle to mist your collar or pillow. Find a fragrance that is pleasing to your care partner. It’ll help him/her also.
  • Take a multi-vitamin mineral supplement to support your overall health, well-being, and immunity.
  • It’s important to get at least 6 hours (preferably 7 or 8) of sleep every night. Of course, this isn’t always possible if you are caring for someone and need to get up at night, or are worried about paying the bills, taking care of the car, getting a new stove, etc. If you can’t get in the hours at night, put your feet up for 10 minutes during the day when your care partner naps. Or take a power nap. It really helps.

Wishing you and your loved ones a healthy, happy New Year! And remember that “this too shall pass.”

Barbra Cohn cared for her husband Morris for 10 years. He passed away from younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Afterward, she was compelled to write “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s & Dementia”—Winner of the 2018 Book Excellence Award in Self-Help—in order to help other caregivers feel healthier and happier, have more energy, sleep better, feel more confident, deal with feelings of guilt and grief, and to ultimately experience inner peace. “Calmer Waters” is available at AmazonBarnes & NobleBoulder Book StoreTattered Cover Book Store,  Indie Bound.org, and many other fine independent bookstores, as well as public libraries.

What if you are caring for someone you don’t like?

Caring for someone is hard enough as it is, but what if you don’t like the person you are caring for? That person might be a chronic complainer or hypchondriac, someone who was an unloving or overly critical parent, an alcoholic or drug abuser, an unfaithful spouse, or an emotional, physical or sexual abuser. What do you do? Abandon them or develop compassionate coping skills to help them during a difficult period, which might turn out to be the end of their life?

Why you are caring for that person?

  • You don’t want to feel guilty
  • You feel responsible
  • You want to be a good role model for your children
  • It’s too expensive to hire help or move the person to a facility

Talk with a social worker or therapist to clarify your goals and boundaries.

Here are some topics that you might want to address:

  • Are you still working? How do you manage your schedule in addition to caregiving? Create a schedule of when you are available and when you are not.
  • Establish boundaries and remember that it is okay to say”no” to a request without feeling guilty or angry.
  • How do you maintain a personal life while enjoying a sense of freedom and happiness?
  • How can you reduce your stress levels? For ways to reduce stress fast visit: https://barbracohn.com/blog/,
  • Can you find one thing you like about the person you are caring for?
  • Is it possible to provide care without being in direct contact with the person? For instance, could you manage their finances, arrange for professional home care, schedule visitors and appointments?

What are your personal needs?

Remember that you need to take care of yourself. This blog is packed with information about self care. There are also lots of ways to get outside help.

  • Have a family meeting via Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Duo or phone. Explain what is going on and ask for physical help or ideas.
  • Ask family members who live in your area to assist by visiting, providing respite care, help with appointments, meals, meds, equipment, etc.
  • People who live far away can help research organizations, day programs, equipment, Medicaid programs, etc.
  • Learn about local grocery stores that deli
  • Look into organizations that help with senior services, day care programs, etc.
  • Community agencies are a great source for volunteer programs and caregiver classes.
  • Find out what qualifies your care recipient for long-term Medicaid services which may provide skilled nursing, the opportunity to live at an assisted living facility, home health care and adult day care.

Caregiving is one of the hardest things anyone will ever ask you to do. It’s been said that all of us will at one time either be a caregiver or be cared for. Try to be respectful, compassionate and mindful of your needs as well as the person you so generously help.

Barbra Cohn cared for her husband Morris for 10 years. He passed away from younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Afterward, she was compelled to write “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s & Dementia”—Winner of the 2018 Book Excellence Award in Self-Help—in order to help other caregivers feel healthier and happier, have more energy, sleep better, feel more confident, deal with feelings of guilt and grief, and to ultimately experience inner peace. “Calmer Waters” is available at AmazonBarnes & NobleBoulder Book StoreTattered Cover Book Store,  Indie Bound.org, and many other fine independent bookstores, as well as public libraries.

The loneliness of caregiving: How to stay socially connected

Closeup of old woman hands holding mobile phone

Woman with mobile phone

My husband had younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The hardest thing for me during the duration of his illness was that I lost my companion. He was the person I made important decisions with. The person I went to movies with, ate dinner with, had interesting conversations with, traveled with, and shared delight with over the accomplishments of our children. He was the one I could complain to if I had a headache, stomach ache, or sore throat, without worrying about being called a hypochondriac or a baby. He was also the person who always cheered me on when I succeeded in achieving my goals.

When it came time to make the decision to move him to a memory care home, I especially missed having him help me decide on which room he’d live in, what type of furniture to buy, and the mattress he would sleep on. When it came time to bury him, it was agonizing for me to choose the plot of land where he would be laid to rest, and where I will be eventually interred.

During my many years of caregiving, I would often hide behind a mask of cheerfulness. It helped. I didn’t feel like a prisoner because I hired people to take my husband out to see a movie. Several of his friends kindly took him to lunch on a regular basis. It takes an effort to maintain friends and to stay socially involved, especially if you no longer work outside the home.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t let my husband’s disease ruin my life. I kept an active calendar filled with dance classes, lunches with friends, and even pursued a certificate in nutrition–all the while he was ill.

But it took planning and some might think I was a bit selfish. But when you look at the grand picture of caregiving, taking care of your personal needs is anything but being selfish. Studies show that 40 to 70 percent of family caregivers experience symptoms of clinical depression. One of the reasons, besides the daily stress, is isolation and loneliness.

Now for the lecture part: If you are a caregiver it is vital that you maintain a social network. Here are some ideas:

  • Stay connected with friends and family either through Facebook or another social media outlet, or by telephone or email, etc.
  • Make a lunch date with a friend at least once a week.
  • Many places of worship offer support for caregivers and families, including social events.
  • Go to a class—any kind of class: knitting, dance, weight training.
  • Join a support group—The Alzheimer’s Association offers classes and workshops for caregivers and for the person with memory loss.
  • Ask your friends and family for respite care. Have someone come over for a couple of hours a week so you can at least get out for a walk or go grocery shopping.
  • Go to the movies with a friend. It’s a great way to escape into another world for a few hours.
  • Call a best friend who is happy to talk; call someone who makes you laugh–laughter is truly the best medicine.
  • Bring your loved one to a Memory Cafe/Alzheimer’s Cafe. The challenges of living with memory loss can sever social connection at a time when it is needed most. Throughout the US and Europe, this casual social meeting is for caregivers and their care partner (the person they are caring for). Memory Cafes offer a way to socialize, explore art, music, poetry and listen to discussions and presentations. A Dutch psychologist opened the firs Memory Cafe in Holland. today there are about 200 Memory Cafes in the U.S.
  • Chat online with other caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association offers chat rooms and so does the American Cancer Society. Check Elder Care Online for chat room and caregiver forum links. ElderCare Online’s Caregiver Support Network brings together online resources, groups and experts to create a virtual community dedicated to improving quality of life for you and your loved ones.

Reducing the Stress On Caregivers: Resources that Really Help—by Kaitlyn Teabo

Although caring for a family member or a loved one can be rewarding, it can also be demanding. If you are a caregiver you are not alone. There are other people just like you and many services designed to help those in your position. Below you will find resources to help you reduce the stress that comes with being a caregiver.

1. Join a Support Group

The chance to talk with others who are going through similar circumstances and facing the same daily challenges as you can help minimize and manage stress. Members of support groups may offer new ideas, coping tips, life experiences and emotional support. The availability to access support groups varies depending on your location. Visit this caregiver.com guide to find a support group near you or call (954) 893-0550 or 1-800-829-2734. If you cannot visit an onsite support group, consider an online support group.

2. Find Respite Care

Respite care services provide someone to care for your loved one while you are away for an hour or for a couple of days. Respite care provides you with the temporary relief and the time you need to relax or to check items off your to-do list that cannot be done during a normal day. To find a respite service in your area, visit Wellness.com’s Respite Care Directory.

3. Find Housekeeping Help

As a primary caregiver, you already have your hands full. Sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day to fold the laundry or wash the dishes. To find someone who can help you take care of daily house work visit Care.com’s Senior Care Directory, where you can search through profiles of housekeepers, errand runners and pet sitters to find the help you need (or call 1-855-805-0711).

4. Utilize Alternative Transportation Options

If you need assistance in providing transportation for your loved one, the National Transit Hotline can provide the names of local transit providers who receive federal money to provide transportation to the elderly and people with disabilities. Call toll free 1-800-527-8279 to learn more. Types of transportation that may be available includes individual door-to-door service, fixed route with scheduled services, or ride-sharing with volunteer drivers.

5. Visit a Family Caregiver Consultant

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging provides Family Caregiver Consultants who can provide you with people who come into your home and help with caring for your loved one; provide information on stress relief, general caregiver topics, disease management, organization of a loved one’s information; give a referral to other community resources that might help withyour caregiving; and help you develop a plan to meet your needs. To contact an Area Agency on Aging Family Caregiver Consultant, find your local AAA agency or call 1-877-770-5558.

Author bio: Kaitlyn Teabo is a writer for The Mesothelioma Center, http://www.asbestos.com/. She combines her interests in writing, cancer research and emerging scientific technology to educate the mesothelioma community about asbestos and its related diseases.

Sources:

(2013, Jan. 9). AAAs/TITLE VI AGENCIES. Retrieved from http://www.n4a.org/about-n4a/?fa=aaa-title-VI

Caregiving. Retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/online-community/groups/index.action?slGroupKey=Group92

Home Care. Retrieved from http://www.carepathways.com/TRANSx.cfm

Klein, Rebecca. (2012, Nov. 21). Caregiver Resources: 13 Tools To Help Reduce Stress This Holiday Season. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/20/caregiverresources_n_2133063.html

Local Resources. Retrieved from http://www.caregiver.com/regionalresources/index.htm

Quick Tips: Reducing the Stress of Caregiving – Get started. Retrieved from http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-center/quick-tips-reducing-the-stress-of-caregiving.aspx

Respite Care. Retrieved from http://www.wellness.com/find/respite%20care

Senior Care Options. Retrieved from http://www.care.com/seniors