On Friday, we looked at when caregivers support themselves are able to regenerate, re-energize and re-source. Doing so increases longevity as a caregiver and feeds the well of patience and understanding. The first three tips included communicating with your loved one, see your doctor regularly and exercising.
Some additional tips ‘n tools for extending your ability to be a supportive caregiver in a longer term situation where a loved one’s health has been compromised are:
4. Make a list of your needs and a list of resources you have available to fulfill them. If cash is tight because of medical costs, see what you can barter or trade. Check into your local community for free classes and other services you can take advantage of and double check your insurance. Some insurance programs now offer wellness programs with no cost to you.
5. Ask for help. If you are struggling, check the lists you completed for #4 above and figure out a plan of whom you can reach out to for help. If your loved one suffers from a particular illness, find a related non-profit and look into what is offered for those involved in a loved one’s care.
To be able to successfully incorporate these changes, take out your calendar and get your steps scheduled in. If you are adding in a doctor approved exercise program, doing it regularly three times a week to start. Being consistent when you first add in a new program is more important than going over the top and doing too much. Gradual change over time is much more likely to become a transformed behaviour or approach.
Set up accountability. Find a partner to be your workout buddy. Set up an email system to let someone else know when you’ve achieved a goal and help them be accountable for changing something in their life.
Doing this guilt free can be a challenge. Enrolling the person you are caring for if they are well enough to have those conversations is important. It is a win/win scenario for everyone if you are able to find time to care for yourself as well as your loved one.
Look ahead into a future where any obstacles in the way of taking care of yourself are removed. How would it feel to be supported in having a self-care program in place? If you had more energy, were in better shape and had the chance to release stress how might that shift the experience of care giving? If you begin to feel guilt over taking time for yourself, connect back to those feelings and recognize the gift the time you give yourself is also a gift to your loved one and all those who care about you. Self-care is not SELF-ish.