The following article is a guest post.
“Success can be defined in three simple words: And then some. The top people did what was expected of them, and then some. They were considerate and kind, and then some. They were good friends and helpful neighbors, and then some.”
And then some pretty much sums up the life of a caregiver.
According to the Caregiving Alliance, over 40 million family caregivers currently reside in the United States, helping provide care to loved ones, spouses, family members, and children with special needs.
The average caregiver is a woman around age 50, but more and more young people of the millennial generation are taking on caregiving roles as well. Millions of caregivers work part or full-time and still provide care to one or more family members, often at the expense of their own schooling, employment, finances, and relationships.
Caregiving tasks may range from picking up prescriptions and providing transportation to appointments and physical therapy, to monitoring vitals and more skilled nursing duties like dressing wounds and administering medicine. The part of caregiver requires unending patience, grace under fire, vigilant attention to detail, as well as time, money, and of course, plenty of heart.
For many caregivers, especially those with aging loved ones who have Alzheimer’s, cognitive decline, or chronic disease, daily struggles are frequent and can take their toll physically and emotionally.
That is why it is so important to recognize key stress triggers, seek support, and celebrate day to day successes.
How can caregivers do that? Here are some ways:
So often, personal hobbies and exercise falls to the wayside for caregivers.
It’s difficult to find an hour much less a half hour to sneak away to the gym or go do something you love.
Start small instead and watch the time add up. 15 minutes a day to simply get outside for a walk in the sun while your loved one is napping, or 15 minutes to read a chapter in your current book, color, or crochet.
15 minutes seems like no time at all, but when you make it a regular thing, can be the brief but bountiful respite you need.
The unfounded guilt which so often accompanies being a caregiver may mean constantly wondering “am I doing the right thing?” or “am I doing enough?”.
Celebrating you means letting go of some of that guilt and acknowledging that you deserve some pampering. Treat yourself with small, meaningful acts of self-care like taking a warm bubble bath, getting that new cook book you’ve been eyeing, going out to a movie, or indulging in the occasional piece of chocolate cake.
Empower Your Loved One.
Your day to day success as a caregiver is naturally boosted by the success of the loved one for whom you care.
Even the smallest accomplishment like getting dressed on their own, fixing breakfast, or helping you with chores can power feelings of self-reliance and positivity.
Equip your aging parents with the tools they need to succeed at day to day tasks – like a reacher grabber tool, dressing aids like a shoe horn or button hook tool, handle grippers, or mobility aids.
The smallest success can make a huge difference in the positive direction of both of your days.
Ask for Help.
Success for a caregiver isn’t necessarily finding a way to do everything on your own, but rather, strategically putting together a support network of medical professionals, family, and friends who can aid in the care of your loved one.
Asking for help is a definite struggle sometimes, but can make a huge difference.
Did you know that under certain conditions your loved one’s doctor may be able to write an order for a nurse or aid to come help you with covered care each week? Or that special help for seemingly small issues from swallowing food to toileting to taking pills can be addressed by an expert in that field?
Transform your day to day concerns into an active dialogue with your support network, seek answers, and potentially transform your loved one’s (and your) life.
Loads of resources, grants, and awards are available for family caregivers, and who knows, you might win the next one.
The Road Scholar’s program grants stipends to family caregivers over 50 who want to pursue education and learning opportunities, the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging offers an award for innovations in caregiving, and AARP and the Family Caregiver Alliance regularly share caregiver grants and resources as well.
Nominating yourself or applying may seem against your selfless caregiver nature, but it paves a way for you to recognize your own worth and contribution, and celebrate it!
As the final member of the Boomer generation turns 65 in just over 10 years, more and more of their kids and relatives will find themselves being called upon to provide care in some capacity. The resources and knowledge needed to succeed at caregiving will vary greatly from person to person, but being able to celebrate even the smallest successes each day should not.