By Danielle Rogers
The holiday season is a time to be with family and friends. Yet as many caregivers may know, there is often more stress than relaxation during the holidays. Before the New Year, while others are making resolutions to eat healthy or exercise more, caregivers might worry about the challenges resolutions present because of their caregiving role. Caregivers often find themselves with so many responsibilities they neglect taking care of themselves and may even feel guilty for thinking of their own needs. However caregivers can and should take part in the New Year’s tradition. After all, we have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others.
So, here are easy resolutions to keep caregivers encouraged and healthy throughout the New Year:
Accepting help can be hard, but it’s worth it. Seek respite and help with daily tasks. If you have family in town, plan an activity that you can do on your own and see if anyone can take over your caregiving duties for that time.
Laughter is shown to be a good form of stress relief and can make it easier to cope with difficult situations.
Making sure you stay healthy will help you be a better caregiver. Research suggests that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health more than any single activity. Ask a friend to go for a walk and exercise your brain with a nonfiction book on a new topic. Adopt a healthy diet.
In addition to exercise, nutrition is an important component of overall health and wellness. Healthy eating patterns such as following a Mediterranean diet have been linked to reduced risk of heart disease. Focus on fruit, vegetables, nuts, lean protein, olive oil and whole grains.
Every caregiver can benefit from a support network. Stay in touch with friends and family. Make it a habit to call a friend each week. Joining a support group can offer you the opportunity to meet other caregivers who are on a similar journey and to receive practical and emotional support.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Often, family and friends want to help but are waiting to be asked.
Senior Helpers’ suggests writing list of activities or chores that would help you the most throughout the New Year. Then share them with family and friends. You can use the Care Team Calendar to help coordinate.
If you don’t like making resolutions, the New Year is a good time for reflection and introspection. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, instead of making resolutions, people are reminded to reflect on the past year and to think of how they could have made it better. Think about a situation when you might have said or done something that was hurtful or negative and think of what you could have done differently. Don’t forget the good experiences. Think about situations during the past year that you handled well and made you feel good.
“Caregivers very rarely acknowledge to themselves or others what an amazing thing they are doing for their loved one. So often caregivers are quick to criticize what they think they haven’t done well and not see all the good things they have done…” says Susan Dailey, a Care Consultant at the Alzheimer’s Association. Dailey suggests that caregivers take time to reflect on how they have helped or connected with their loved one. Each day, list at least one thing you did well for your loved one or have a friend or family member share their appreciation.
For more information on ways you can find support visit the Alzheimer’s Association online Caregiver Center.