As the author of this blog post (Nancy) I’ve been a caregiver now for three years straight!  This is a job that I never thought I’d be doing.  I’ve always seemed to take care of others, but not to this extent.  I take care of my boyfriend who needs 24/7 care after having a stroke.  If not careful, caring for someone else doesn’t leave me much time to take care of myself…but that took me a while to realize!  Being a caregiver has so many responsibilities for the other person such as distributing meds, confirming the meds have been taken, preparing meals, cleaning up after meals, laundry, chauffeur tasks, scheduling and appearances, social gatherings being a roommate, and grooming.  These are just a few of the responsibilities.

Life is full of changes that take place and lead us into unexpected situations.  Life can move you in a different direction with the snap of your fingers, leading you to a place where you don’t even realize how you landed there.   Many find that as they are a caregiver, they start heading down the path of losing themselves. Many times they take really great care of the person who needs the support, but they can be feeling lost.  Many understand that they are doing something good and kind, and struggle to figure out why they didn’t feel good about this.  This can leave them feeling empty and confused, almost as if life was passing them by!
The most important factor in caregiving is that the caregiver has to be healthy in order to take care of their recipient.  This means you cannot lose yourself in order to care for someone else.  You have to be conscious of how you feel throughout the day, and your time management has to be stellar!
As Linda Abbit explains in her book, The Conscious Caregiver, “So what is a conscious caregiver?  Conscious caregivers choose to allot time, energy, and compassion to themselves as well as their care recipients.  You believe taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually greatly benefits both you and your care recipient.  In fact, caregiving quality improves when you care enough about yourself to take time out from caregiving for activities that make you happier and more refreshed”.

What can YOU start incorporating into your life that makes you happy while also caring for someone else?

Here are some of the things that come to mind…

  • If your person can be alone for short periods of time, go grocery shopping!  Sometimes it’s a good way to relax and listen to the overhead music.  It will give you a chance to catch your breath while still accomplishing a task you need to fulfill.
  • Started an area of indoor plants to nourish the air in the home.  Certain plants clean the air in the home.  These include ferns, snake plant, fiddle-leaf fig, peace Lilly, spider plant, and English ivy, to name a few.
  • Start an herb garden in the kitchen.  I use these herbs for cooking and have them under a grow light.  Basil seems to sprout easily, yet I enjoy oregano, thyme, and mint also.
  • Oh! If you have space, an outdoor garden in the backyard is a nice moment of respite!
  • When you clean the house put the music on and dance a little jig while cleaning!  This can be really uplifting!
  • Take small breaks for yourself, especially if you are starting to feel overwhelmed or anxious.  A small break, doing some breathing exercises, and just BEING are very helpful.
  • If the weather is nice I always make an effort to go out on the deck and enjoy nature.  Take the person you care for out there with you and they can enjoy it also.
  • Call a family member or a friend to talk once a day.  Reaching out to others outside the home is a great way to build connections with others and avoid isolation
  • Utilize and take advantage of helpers, respite care, and family members who offer to help.
As a caregiver myself, these are some of the ways I’ve found to help me feel better and they bring me back to myself.  I know you have your own special ways to feel good, so think about it, write them down, and start adding them into your day!  You will find yourself before you know it!