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Taking Care of Yourself is the Best Way to Help Others

New Year’s tips to help caregivers stay healthy and effective in 2017

The phrase “You can’t pour from an empty cup” speaks volumes about the importance of taking care of yourself before you can take care of others, particularly if you are the primary caregiver for children or elderly parents and have other responsibilities that can’t be neglected. Taking care of yourself is not selfish. To the contrary, it is the most sensible way to make sure you can continue helping others who depend upon you.

It is common for caregivers to get lost in their day-to-day responsibilities and postponing their own doctor appointments, haircuts, nights out with friends and other activities that would help them stay strong and happy.  Without taking time to recharge and refresh, caregivers are likely to find themselves short on patience and brimming with guilt and stress. The New Year is the perfect time to take stock of your situation and chart a course for balance and self-care in the year ahead.  It’s never too late for a fresh start!

Here are some tips to help you and other caregivers you know nurture your own mental and physical health, which will ultimately improve the lives of the people you love and care for.

Set Boundaries

No one has infinite capacity. Before you are pushed to the brink, you need to manage the expectations of everyone involved. Clear communication is the key. Begin by creating a weekly schedule of the time you are available each day and designate what will be taken care of when, such as grocery shopping on Monday, pharmacy on Tuesday, housework on Wednesday and so on. If you find that more hours are required than you can provide, it may be time to consider the outside help of a professional caregiving agency. Asking for help may be tough, but it can make a world of a difference in the quality of your life and the care your loved one receives.

Find Shortcuts to Healthy Habits   

Staying healthy is not difficult only for seniors who lack the energy to shop, cook and engage in daily fitness, but also for caregivers who are working non-stop.  You can lighten the load with a few strategic shortcuts. For example, if you cook for your family on Sundays, prepare a larger quantity and freeze individual servings for during the week. Rather than reaching for something quick and unhealthy on a busy day, go for your home cooked option instead. Because mental and emotional health has a profound impact on physical health, make time-management your priority. For example, rather than running to the market every time you run out of something, make one bulk grocery run per month for all non-perishable items, buy double and drop off the essentials to your loved one’s home.  Every hour you save is an hour you can spend on yourself, resting or doing whatever makes you happy.

Schedule Time for You

With organizational systems in place, schedule a date with yourself.  Whether it is an hour to listen to music in the bath, read a good book, hit the gym, go to the beauty salon, or an evening out with friends, take the time to unwind and recharge.

You also may want to designate some time to investigate whether there is a hobby or a social club that would help your loved one find purpose and stay stimulated and engaged, which ultimately will take some pressure off you. Creating a healthy lifestyle in 2017 can include many different things to experience together and apart.

Know When to Ask for Help

Even if you do everything you can to maintain balance in your life, the situation may be more than you can handle.  Your frequent household visits and extra support with daily tasks may no longer be enough. Your loved one’s physical and mental health may deteriorate and prevent them from taking care of themselves when you are not there. Someone who can provide companionship and assistance during those hours can relieve pressure on you and enhance the time you share together.

Be kind to yourself in 2017 and focus on the things you are doing right. Although being a caregiver can be very challenging, there are ways to manage the stress in your life, stay healthy and enjoy the coming year.