Good afternoon and happy Memorial Day. Welcome to Demystifying Alzheimer’s. I’m your hostess Mary Yamin-Garone.
In Saturday’s podcast, I talked about how to be a healthy caregiver. I’ll discuss more about that today.
As a busy caregiver, leisure—or free time—may seem like an impossible indulgence. It’s important, however, that you carve it into your schedule for you and the person you’re caring for. It’s okay to give yourself permission to relax and do the things you enjoy. It will make you a better caregiver.
There’s a difference between being busy and being productive. If you’re not taking a break to de-stress and recharge your batteries, you’ll accomplish less in the long run. After a break, you’ll feel rested, energetic and focused.
- Set aside at least 30 minutes for yourself every day. Use that time to do whatever you enjoy, whether it’s reading, gardening, crocheting, watching a movie or taking a walk.
- Pamper yourself. Small luxuries go a long way to relieve caregiver stress and lift your spirits. Light candles. Soak in the bathtub. Get a massage. Have your hair done. Play golf. Buy flowers or whatever makes you feel special.
- Laughter is the best medicine and an antidote to stress. It also goes a long way. Watch a funny TV show or movie or call a friend who makes you laugh. Most important, try and find humor in everyday situations whenever possible.
- Get out of the house. Ask friends or family members to help out with caregiving so you can have time away from home.
- Visit with friends. Simply expressing what you’re going through can be therapeutic. If it’s tough for you to leave the house, have friends over for coffee, tea, lunch or dinner. Interacting with people is important. Sharing your feelings doesn’t make you a burden. In fact, most friends and family members will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them.
Practice acceptance. When you’re faced with the unfairness of a loved one’s illness or the burden of caregiving, you often need to make sense of the situation and ask “Why?” You can spend considerable time and energy dwelling on things you can’t change and for which there aren’t any clear answers. And, at the end of the day, you won’t feel any better.
Do your best to avoid feeling sorry for yourself or looking for someone to blame. Instead, put your energies into accepting your situation and finding ways it can help you grow as an individual.
- Focus on what you can control. You can’t wish your loved one’s Alzheimer’s away. So instead of stressing over things you can’t control, focus on how you choose to react to problems.
- Look for the silver lining. Think about how caring for your loved one has made you stronger or how it’s brought you closer to them or other family members. Reflect on how caregiving allows you to give back and show your love.
- Avoid tunnel vision. Don’t let your caregiving responsibilities overtake your life. It’s easier to accept a difficult situation when there are other areas of your life that are rewarding. Invest in things that give your life meaning and purpose, such as your family, faith or a favorite activity.
Take care of your health. Think of your body like a car. With the proper fuel and maintenance, it will be reliable and run well. Neglect it, and it will start to give you trouble. Don’t create added stress to your caregiving responsibilities with avoidable health woes.
- Stay on top of doctor visits. It’s easy to forget about your health when you’re busy taking care of someone else. Such was the case with my father. Don’t miss check-ups or medical appointments. If you’re not healthy, you can’t take good care of your loved one.
- Like most of us, when you’re stressed or tired you don’t feel like exercising, even though you know you’ll feel better afterward. Exercise is a powerful stress reliever and mood enhancer. Strive for at least 30 minutes a day. Regular exercise also boosts your energy level and helps ward off fatigue.
- Develop a daily relaxation or meditation. A few minutes in the midst of an overwhelming day can make a difference and help fight fatigue.
- Eat well. Nourish your body with fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean protein and healthy fats, like nuts and olive oil. These foods provide a steady stream of energy.
- Don’t cut back on sleep. When you get less sleep, your mood, energy level, productivity and ability to cope with stress suffer.
Join a support group. Caregiver support groups are a good way to share your troubles with those who are going through the same experiences as you. In most of these groups, you’ll talk about your problems and listen to others. You’ll soon realize you’re not alone. You’ll feel better knowing that someone else is in the same situation. Their knowledge and experience can be invaluable, especially if they’re caring for someone
Local vs. Online Caregiver Support Groups
With local support groups:
- People in the group live nearby and gather in a specified place weekly or monthly.
- You get face-to-face contact and a chance to make new friends.
- Meetings get you out of the house, provide a social outlet and reduce your feelings of isolation.
- Meetings are at a set time. You need to attend them regularly to reap the full benefit of the group.
- Since everyone in the support group lives in the area, they’ll be more familiar with local resources.
With online support groups:
- Participants come from all over the world and share similar interests or problems.
- You meet online via email lists, websites, message boards or social media.
- You get support without leaving the comfort of your home.
- You can access the group whenever it’s convenient or when you need help the most.
- If your problem is unusual, there may not be enough people to form a local group but there always will be enough online.
To find a community support group, check online, ask your physician or local hospital or contact your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I hope this information was helpful.
Join me at 1 pm Saturday when I’ll discuss self-care for family caregivers.