The COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted all of us in so many different ways. Prior to the pandemic, sending our family members to an assisted living or nursing facility was concerning, but now our fears are compounded! Many of us have elected to keep our families at home to protect them, but somewhere in there did not think about the impact it would have on us as the caregiver. It is important now more than ever to find ways to take care of ourselves.
What are some things you can do to take care of yourself?
We hear the words "self care" so much that it can be annoying; however, it is truly important. We are not talking about spa days and vacations. They are useful, but there is more to self-care than momentary relaxation.
Taking charge of your own health (mental, physical, and spiritual) not only helps you, but it also helps those you are taking care of.
Below are our recommendations:
Preventative care for yourself
Identify your breaking point ahead of time
Set goals for yourself and family
Ask for and accept help
Preventative care for yourself
We have all heard the story that if we were on a plane, we should put on our oxygen mask first before trying to help others. It is important to take care of yourself, keep your doctor's appointments, get your rest, and eat well.
There are a lot of resources for caregivers available on the Maryland Department of Aging website. Why not take advantage of the resources available, including opportunities to get trained on simple things such as appropriate lifting techniques? Caregivers are prone to back injuries, often due to not being trained on how to best assist their loved one in transferring or performing personal care.
Identify your breaking point ahead of time.
As a caregiver, we often see a decline in health and abilities of our loved ones. As we see the decline, we will increase the supports we provide. It is important to establish "when is it too much?" When my mother was caring for my grandmother, we had this conversation as a family. My mother stated that she would be willing to look into enhanced services for my grandmother if she was no longer safe at home. We defined safety as her falling or injuring herself. Approximately a year later, my grandmother began to fall on a regular basis and could not be left alone. The conversation we had a year prior allowed us to take that difficult step of moving my grandmother to a facility. She lived there for many years with the care and supports that she needed to keep her safe and happy.
Set goals for yourself and your family
Asking yourself those hard questions to develop goals is an essential component of self-care. Why do we want to keep mom at home? Is home really the safest place for dad? What do we want to accomplish by keeping grandad with us? Coming up with the answers to those questions can assist you and your family not only in establishing goals, but also on assessing whether you are meeting those goals. If your goal to keep grandma home with you is to keep her safe but she is having multiple incidents, you might ask yourself if you are really accomplishing your goal. Establishing goals can also help you to determine if you are able to make the commitment necessary to achieve those goals.
Asking for AND accept help
Sometimes the word "help" can feel like failure. As a caregiver, when I had to ask for help taking care of my sister who was terminally ill, I felt like she was my responsibility and I did not want to ask my partner for help. I felt like asking for help was becoming a burden for her. Luckily, my partner saw through me, just stepped in, and would not take no for an answer. She then brought in professionals to assist us. Getting help allowed me to spend time with my sister as simply her sister, not always her caregiver. Other people were able to handle things like cleaning and meds, so we could sit and go through family photos and reminisce. Accepting help not only helped me, but it helped my relationship with my sister (that is another blog post completely).
Being a caregiver can be one of the hardest jobs of your life. Putting things in place to take care of yourself and your family is of vital importance. It will make a world of difference for you and your loved ones.