Caregivers, Take Care of Yourself

We’ve gotten through the holidays and in regards to the pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Now is a great time for a reminder to residential assisted living operators and care staff of the importance of taking care of yourself. Caring for others can be taxing and with the stress of the past few months, it’s time for a check-up.

Take the time for a quick check-up on how you are caring for yourself and what areas you might want to address to make sure that you are at your best.

Self-care for residential assisted living caregivers demands that individuals care for themselves first.

While caring for others is rewarding work. It can be tough and exhausting work.

The exhaustion is what can take a tremendous toll on the lives of those providing care in residential assisted living homes.

How do I sustain myself while providing quality care for others? The answer is simple but requires determination. Put yourself first.

By nature, caregivers reap a great personal reward when caring for another. However, in order to continue caring for others one must practice self-care.

Consider airplane emergency protocols, “First place your oxygen mask on yourself and then assist those around you.”

That’s right – make sure you care for yourself: emotionally, spiritually, physically. When you do this, you will have the energy and resources to be able to care for someone else.

EFFECTS OF CAREGIVING ON HEALTH AND WELL-BEING

Caregivers can have a shorter lifespan than those for whom they care. Why?

Caregivers who forsake their own health and well-being fall susceptible to illness and injury at far greater rates than those receiving care.

A list of challenges arises frequently among caregivers:

  • Heart disease and associated cardiac events
    • Stroke
    • Transient Ischemic Attacks
    • Heart Attack
    • Aneurysm
    • Angina
  • Falls
  • Strains
  • Insomnia and its associated struggles
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Addiction(s)

Unfortunately, the reality is caregivers are more susceptible by nature of being invested in their work. Furthermore, should there be underlying vulnerabilities, this line of work will certainly cause manifestation.

Self-care must be a lifestyle, not an infrequent episode. It is the consistent inclusion of:

  • Exercise
  • Hobbies
  • Healthy eating
  • Rest

These activities bring personal enjoyment. Doing them consistently can effectively benefit the overall life of a caregiver, including health.

IDENTIFYING PERSONAL BARRIERS

While the above sounds great, the implementation can be a challenge. Most people do not live in a manner that incorporates self-care as their ethos.

More likely than not, self-deprivation is more the norm than anyone would like to admit.

The denial of the self receives far greater accolades and notoriety than caring for oneself.

Self-sacrifice is highly regarded as optimal, but the problem with this is the detriment done. Families, businesses, and corporations suffer because of this erroneous idea.

Other personal barriers exist, too. Some caregivers believe:

  • I alone am responsible for these people.
  • If I don’t get this done for Ms. Jennings, no one will.
  • I do this because I couldn’t for my own family members.
  • I promised his family I would be his personal “go to”.

These perspectives are not good and sometimes even dangerous.

The issue with the above-mentioned reasons for self-sacrificing is they disregard the professional nature of caregiving.

First of all, caregiving is a team effort. Ms. Jennings has an entire staff at her disposal, not just you.

Secondly, you cannot work out your personal family issues using others outside your family.

This is dangerous because Mr. Rodriguez is not your father.

Treat and care for him exceptionally well because it is your professional duty, not because of a personal issue.

Lastly, making promises to family members also disregards the teamwork of being a professional caregiver.

You want the family to trust the staff at the residential assisted living home, not just you. You do not live in the home, nor are you solely responsible for any one resident.

Self-care could very well begin with embracing the professional nature of caregiving. Yes, there is a personal touch.

That’s why you became a caregiver, but do not neglect the professionalism, which protects you, the assisted living home, and the residents.

If the residents only needed personal touch, their family members could have provided that.

Embrace the professionalism of care.

PERSONAL CARE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL CAREGIVER

Now that you’ve embraced or at least accepted the professionalism of being a caregiver, let’s get you in great shape.

You won’t be training for a marathon, but you will certainly be caring for yourself so that you may properly care for others.

Below is a tool chest with 7 components. Open it, and take the tools out needed to work on yourself.

Tool #1: Reducing Personal Stress

Things happen. Things happen to us. Things happen around us. We need not respond at 100% when the event only requires 25-percent. In other words, take the time to be objective about life events. Be truthful about the event and accept what can and cannot be done about it. Choose to be positive about life and its unwanted surprises and carry on. One thing is for sure: the sun will rise in the morning and set in the evening. That means life goes on and so should you. Most challenges in our lives require time to settle the score. So, do the following:

  • Go to bed and sleep well.
  • Identify recurring sources of stress and resolve them.
  • The Serenity Prayer. It works!
  • Take decisive action and commit to it.
  • Take the wisdom of young people and “keep it moving!”

Tool #2: Setting Goals

Live a purposeful life. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want out of life?
  • What do I want to give to life?
  • Where do I want to go?

The answers may seem easy, but they are not. Tell yourself the truth. If you discover you do not like what you have become that is good. Develop a plan. Write it down. Make small changes consistently and you will soon see a person in yourself whom you like, love, and respect. Be cautious. Don’t blow your life up and start over, especially if you have a family. Be wise and do it step by step.

Tool #3: Seeking Solutions

Many love to complain, but most people are not problem solvers. Become the problem solver. It’s empowering and productive. You will find yourself happier, even delighted. Problem solvers are unweighted by trivial things and engaged in what will matter tomorrow. This is purposeful. Therefore, become focused on solutions. Those who provide solutions reap the rewards. In your personal life, seek solutions. People who only want to complain will vacate your premises so get ready for new people in your life. This is good. You will find your professional caregiving will improve, too, because the residents for whom you care will have a stronger, more focused, and caring caregiver.

Tool #4: Communicating Constructively

In your personal and professional life, be constructive when communicating. What does constructive communication mean? It’s all about perspective and specificity. For instance, instead of conveying your emotions to someone else by saying, “You always make me angry because you always do…” Be constructive by owning your feelings: “I become angry when you do… Can we discuss changing how… is done?” That is constructive. Inflammatory language is removed and ownership is taken by using the word, “I”. This is important because only you can communicate for yourself. Do not relinquish control by using language that only results in a loss of control.

Tool #5: Asking for and Accepting Help

Pride will get you nowhere and get you there fast. Ask for help. That’s right! Mr. Smith is too heavy for you to lift. Ask for help. You are unable to maintain the laundry burden with managing the eating of Mrs. Jones. Ask for help. This is a challenge for those who say, “I can do this myself,” or “I don’t want to bother anyone.” While this sounds meritorious, it is arrogant. It is prideful to think you are being humble by not seeking help. Everyone needs someone else to help them with something. By asking and receiving help, you open yourself to another beautiful reality. One that makes caregivers get up each morning. Guess what it is? Others will do the same. They will ask you for help. And who better to ask for help, than those who love giving it.

Tool #6: Stay Healthy

How can you manage the health of another and ignore your own? Think about that. Now, admit your error and change it now. Book your wellness visit with your physician, now. Ladies book your annual with your OBGYN, now. Take care of your body. What happens if you do not like the results of your bloodwork? Then, change those results over the next 12 months. How do you do that? Keep accessing these tools.

Tool #7: The Wellness Way

Wellness is not cliche’. Wellness is not temporary. Wellness is not an initiative with a due date. Wellness is a way of life. RAL homes who adopt wellness have far fewer absences, higher retention rates, and happier residents. Why? Wellness is best adopted when slowly integrated into your life. Think about it. If you love pound cake, how willing are you to just stop eating it “cold turkey?” And, for how long can you sustain the absence of pound cake in your life? It is wiser to say, no more pound cake on a daily basis. I’ll have some on Sundays. Then, move to I’ll have pound cake on the first Sunday of the month. Then, perhaps, I’ll enjoy pound cake at holidays. While reducing pound cake, you increase daily walks. A month or so later, you integrate more green leafy vegetables in place of pound cake. Then, maybe you incorporate light weightlifting, cycling, or some other activity that brings you joy. Remember, it’s a process. Wellness is a consistent commitment to improve your physical health by also improving your emotional health. You should enjoy living well, not despise the plate of food set before you at each meal. Choose to know your health profile and seek to improve it purposefully.

THE SIGN OF HEALTHY CAREGIVERS

Caring for yourself enables you to care for others. Being true to yourself, enables you to be truthful with others.

Taking purposeful action for yourself, enables you to be purposeful with and for others. Self-care is not arrogance, it’s necessary. Caring for yourself – first – makes you a better you.

Therefore, determine right now what you will do. Self-care or self-deprivation? Choose self-care.

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