We've all read the quotes and status updates relating to how terrible and challenging 2020 has been for one reason or another. Personally, it was a trying year, but I realized it was for many. All the large news channels had several "How to home school during the pandemic," and other tips on how to balance the life for parents of young kids adapting to the changes of virtual learning for themselves and for their children; but what was not researched and highlighted, was "how to be a caregiver for my adult parents and still live my life during this pandemic?" Why is this topic always felt so hush hush?
Where were these "How To" guides for the thousands of people are not only caring for themselves, a significant other, kid(s), but possibly an aging parent/loved one? Where are the "how to" guides on how to balance being a caregiver, while still being safe and staying sane through the pandemic?
As a Gerontologist and Care Advisor, it's discouraging to see little attention/focus on the big picture of health and quality of life for our aging population and their family/informal caregivers. These informal/family/friend caregivers quality of life diminishes just as do parents when they lose who they are because they spend their entire life absorbed in their children's lives. If you give up what makes you feel good and happy (while parenting or caregiving) you won't be able to give your best self to yourself and those who depend on you. You have to fuel the fire which is your own soul to really be the best version of yourself.
Family caregivers during COVID are more stressed and overwhelmed than ever before...
Did you know, approximately 61% of caregivers are employed while caregiving?
Below are 5 Self-Care Strategies to follow into the new year of 2021, as this pandemic continues to impact thousands of non-paid family/informal caregivers in our country and in the world.
Try some of these and let me know if any of them are beneficial to giving yourself as a caregiver some more care and nurturing that you deserve and the person getting the care deserves.
1. Identify what gets in your way of taking care of yourself.
As you begin to enhance your self-care, it can help to identify what gets in your way of taking care of yourself. Acknowledge the most common obstacles to your self-care.
After you identify your own unique barriers to self-care, think of how these barriers or beliefs originated, for example:
Were you raised to put others before yourself?
What was your role in your family household as you were growing up?
2. Shift how you think about self-care
Not only is taking better care of yourself important, so too, is how you think about taking the time for yourself. Shift from the old way of thinking to a new way of thinking.
For example: Instead of saying: "I can’t take a walk, my mom needs me
Try saying: "Taking a walk for myself now will give me some time to be alone and decompress, which will lower my stress. My mom will sense that my mood has changed and benefit from my taking care of myself."
3. Set goals for taking better care of yourself
Here are categories caregivers tend to have difficulty prioritizing their own self-care in. Take time to rate how well you are taking care of yourself in each of these categories.
Use the scale 0 = poorly through 5 = outstanding to rate how well you are taking care of yourself.
Category examples: Exercise, eating habits, self-care, social activities, sleep, etc.
Now, select the category that stands out to you most and identify one way that you could start to take better care of yourself in this area.
4 . Set yourself up for success.
Imagine what moving toward your self-care goal looks like, identify any problems, then troubleshoot the steps to eliminating or moving past the problems.
Goal: Go to bed an hour earlier at night.
Potential Problem: Getting busy working on cleaning up after your mom or your dinner and then getting sucked into your computer answering emails from work.
Solution: Set an alarm on your phone for 30 minutes before your desired bedtime to remind you to start getting ready for bed. OR opening up to your supervisor at work about what is going on and see if they can offer any support or counseling for through your benefits package at work.
5. Ask your friends, family, neighbors, church family/friends, and health aides for help
Asking for help is really hard for caregivers to do, but remind yourself that you're worth it and your loved ones are too.
It can help to be clear about what you need help with. Ask for help for a couple hours or so a week, just to give yourself a bit of a respite and you'd be surprised how good just a couple hours or so a week can help you be a better caregiver and feel better, too.
Remember: Your health is just as important as everyone else's.
Get mental health & caregiving support when you need it.
*Most importantly, I was inspired by Dr. Regina Koepp's and her caregiving strategies. https://www.drreginakoepp.com/blog/caregiving-during-covid-19
She is an outstanding Board Certified Psychologist and Gerontologist who specializes in older adults and families.
Laura Cassell, CDP, M.S. Applied Aging Sciences
Gerontologist & Dementia Practitioner
Serving the Florida Panhandle (Pensacola-Panama City)