Caregiving is a unique and demanding role, and caregivers often get lost in the details of caring for others and forget about the importance of their own health and wellbeing. It’s natural for home caregivers to put their own needs last and their senior loved one’s needs first. But, as the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you don’t protect your health and wellbeing, you put yourself at risk for chronic illnesses and burnout.
Now is a good time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work in the past year and what you can do to improve your personal and work life, as well as that of the seniors in your care. These New Year’s resolutions will help home caregivers to improve their own physical, emotional, and mental health while giving the best they can for the seniors in their care.
New Year’s Resolution #1: Get Help
Family caregivers can’t do everything by themselves. It’s a good idea to surround yourself with a team of friends and family members to assist you with your caregiving duties, as well as helping out with chores or running errands. If you don’t have other family members or friends that can help out, consider getting a professional home caregiver to help you out from time to time. It’s also a good idea to join a support group for emotional encouragement.
Additionally, it’s alright to relax your standards a bit, especially if you’re a perfectionist. Nobody’s going to eat from the floor, so there’s no need to go overboard when cleaning. Do only what you can and leave time to take care of yourself.
New Year’s Resolution #2: Take Time out for Yourself
Caregivers aren’t machines – they need to take at least 20 minutes every day for themselves to catch their breath and reduce their stress levels. Some ideas include taking a long bath with a riveting book, walking around the block to catch some fresh air, having lunch with a friend, or immersing yourself in a hobby.
If you are a family caregiver, ask a family member, volunteer, or professional home caregiver to stand in for you for a few hours or even a few days now and then so that you can recuperate and return fresh again. If you’re a professional home caregiver, prioritize your health and wellbeing when you have time off.
New Year’s Resolution #3: Use Time Management Tools
If you feel that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do, a time management tool may be the answer to help you organize your life and that of the seniors in your care more efficiently.
There are many mobile apps available with which you can organize files, save important contacts, add a to-do list, add reminders for appointments, coordinate activities with other family and professional caregivers, and even manage medication for those in your care.
New Year’s Resolution #4: Eat Healthy
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 3.7 million seniors were diagnosed with malnutrition in 2012. Seniors often find it difficult to cook healthy meals or to buy groceries due to physical constraints, and this can often result in unhealthy eating habits, while home caregivers are often too overwhelmed with all their duties to cook a proper meal.
Both caregivers and seniors need the nutrients from a well-balanced diet to stay healthy and strong, and it will be worth investing more time into preparing healthy meals. There are many food apps available to help with easy recipes and meal plans, special diets such as diabetes, and even ones where you can order groceries for home delivery.
New Year’s Resolution #5: Discuss Difficult Decisions with the People in Your Care
Having these discussions can be awkward and emotionally wrenching, but it’s important to plan ahead and get clarity on the wishes of the seniors in your care before it’s too late. These conversations can include the following:
Living wills and power of attorney: In case seniors can’t make their own decisions anymore, it’s important to know what their wishes are and someone needs to be given the authority to act on their behalf.
Documentation required: A family member should have access to certain important documentation and information, such as marriage certificates, proof of ownership, passwords, and insurance and life policies.
Wills: If their will is not up to date, it’s a good idea to get this resolved sooner than later.
Housing and/or caregiving needs: Important discussions include whether it’s still viable to stay at home and whether it’s time to get a home caregiver involved to help with the day-to-day caregiving.
Finances: A good idea is to draw up a budget to assess whether there are enough funds available to get by, if there are any costs that can be reduced, and whether seniors need any financial assistance, and if so, how that can be met.
Although it sounds harsh to talk about these topics, it can’t be avoided – you never know when you will need it.
Sticking with the New Year’s Resolutions
If you’ve found the past year to be draining and overwhelming, it’s clear that it’s time to make some changes. But even home caregivers who don’t necessarily feel burnt out can benefit from reflecting on the past year and planning ahead for the new year. Reflection can help you to assess which activities worked well and what made your caregiving responsibilities more demanding. This will enable you to make the right New Year’s resolutions to keep your physical, mental, and emotional health intact while looking after others.
If you need any help with your new year’s resolutions or you’ve realized you need the assistance of a professional home caregiver, please get in contact with Alegre Home Care.