Caregiving is like running a marathon only you may not have any idea where the end is, and you don’t get to wear cute little outfits, and there are not a crowd of people cheering you to the finish. Many times, not even family is there to help out when needed. Runners have time to train and prepare for a race, but sometimes caregivers have no time to train, or they are unaware they need to educate themselves.
Once you become a caregiver, there is still time to train. You need to train for endurance and perseverance. What makes you come most alive? Seriously! Think about what makes you feel most alive. Is it a hobby, a walk in fresh air, a second cup of coffee and the morning paper or other morning routines, feeding birds and bird watching, entertaining friends or family? What is it for you? Take some time and think about this.
Caregivers are often stuck at home or feel like they are. They need an outlet, some way to make them feel like they are still a part of life. If you have never been a caregiver or known one, this could be a new thought for you. A good idea is to block out part of every day some way for you to feel alive mentally or pampered emotionally. If you have not joined a social media site, this may be the time. If you are at home a lot, Facebook or Instagram may give you a way to keep up with friends and also ask for prayer or let off steam.
You will want to think of your physical strength as well. Athletes know that staying hydrated is essential. Of course, we know they sweat a lot, and as caregivers, we don’t expect to be so active. Some health journals say that by the time we are thirsty we are already mildly dehydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids and preferably noncaffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages. Those are fine in moderation, but not as your primary source of liquid refreshment. Eat whole, clean foods. Lean more towards vegetables, some fruits, and lean protein. The internet has many recipes to help you make tasty meals for you and your loved one. Learning new recipes can be adventurous. Well, in the sense that it feels risky to change a diet that has included unhealthy choices. Menus will change during your time of caregiving by doctors orders, so you may actually be ahead by starting clean eating from the start.
Morning stretches are an excellent way to start your day. Start by stretching both arms up over your head and breathing deeply. Stretch your arms and all areas through your shoulders, if you are lifting your care receiver, healthcare supplies or equipment on a regular basis. Breathing deeply makes sure oxygen is getting to your muscles, so they stay strong. You may not feel like an athlete, but you need to train as one if you are going to endure to the end.
Include the Family
The family is essential, and they should be involved as they can. If they have not experienced the work of caregiving, they may think you can handle it as you have treated other work in the past. Caregiving is not a 9-5 job. If it doesn’t start that way for you, it will become a 24/7 job. You will need breaks. If a family member can help, it will give you regular breaks without the cost of a home health care agency. (An agency may have to come later when your care receiver needs more attention.) The more close family is involved, the better. A team is always better. Co-dependency is avoided. It is easy for a care receiver to begin to think they are a little god. Many decisions are made by the caregiver. The care receiver starts to rely on the wisdom of the caregiver and all their needs are met by the caregiver. The caregiver knows what the care receiver likes and how they like it. They know what the doctor ordered and have counseled with the doctor. The caregiver and the care receiver have been on the roller coaster ride of emotions together, weathering the bad times and celebrating the good times. If a team of family members is involved, sharing responsibilities even if there is one main caregiver, lessons the chance of co-dependency and burnout.
Think about what family members or friends you can get involved in the caregiving experience with you. What hobby or experience can you incorporate into your day? In the early stages when your care receiver can stay alone for a couple of hours may be an excellent time to learn a new hobby. If you are not fond of drinking water, as I am not, try adding a little fruit juice to water for a bit of taste or even boiling fruit in water for a hot or cold tea. Look for new healthy recipes to introduce once a week at meal times using healthier food choices.