There are presently more than 90 million Americans who care for family members, friends, or loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or frailties of old age, according to the Caregiver Action Network.
Caring for someone that has Alzheimer’s, dementia, or chronic illness can be one of the most difficult roles that a person can take on. It can be exhausting, overwhelming, frustrating, lonely, and, most often, thankless. Caregivers are never truly off the clock. Caregiving can be a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week job.
In addition to taking care of a loved one’s physical needs and managing medications, there are also basic daily life management tasks that a caregiver has to take over— paying bills, managing insurance issues, scheduling and commuting to and from medical appointments.
Caregivers almost always put others’ needs above their own on a daily basis, forgoing their own self-care, which often results in illness or burnout.
How can you help? Take time now to show them you care, whether they are family, friends, church family, neighbor, or yourself! It is critical to acknowledge and care for the caregiver in your life, even if that person is you.
What can you do? Show others that you care about them by gifting them their favorite coffee drink, snack, or dessert! You can also put together a few items the caregiver can use for self-care. This could include things like soothing bath salts, a fancy candle, a fuzzy blanket, a good book, or some essential oils. If you’re not sure what treat or self-care item they would enjoy, there is nothing quite as heartwarming as a personalized card or letter from someone you care about.
If you are a caregiver, your unique efforts need to be recognized by you as well. A simple way to notice and celebrate your caregiving accomplishments is to track them in a journal. Write down each win, no matter how small. Track each time you achieve a goal or complete a task. The way you feel about yourself and how you talk to yourself actually has more impact than what anyone else thinks or says. You are unique in your efforts so give yourself that well deserving “pat on the back” every time you can.
Notice what you’ve done right. Celebrating caregiver victories and successes can increase positive emotions like self-respect, happiness, and confidence. It also reduces stress and boosts your mood because you’re focused on the positive and noticing all the great things you’ve been able to do for your loved one. Plus, revisiting your accomplishments when you feel discouraged or defeated is a sure way to help yourself feel better and give you the confidence to overcome the next challenge.
Your accomplishments might look something like these:
- Managed to get dad to take all his medication this evening even though he insisted that he didn’t need them.
- Finally got mom to shower and change clothes!
- Helped dad brush his teeth and shave with a minimum of fuss.
No matter how trivial these accomplishments might sound to a non-caregiver, you know exactly how much energy and effort it took to get them done! They truly are victories and deserve recognition and appreciation. Keeping a success journal costs nothing and takes only a few minutes – why not give it a try?