Eight Ways to Empower and Recharge Caregivers

Caregivers are some of the greatest unsung heroes in our society. One thing we’ve noticed as we help clients in our offices in Orange Park, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine is how many of our clients have trusted and caring family members or friends helping them as they manage the challenges that can often be associated with aging. We see many caregivers helping their spouses, parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors. It is inspiring to see how many loved ones step up to help seniors and people with special needs as part-time, or full-time, caregivers.

Caregivers typically need some time to take better care of themselves, as they give so much to those they love, and it is easy for a caregiver to become burned out or ill, which can have devastating effects for them and their lives–and certainly for the person who is relying on their love, care, and support.

Here’s a short list of eight ways to empower and recharge caregivers that we hope offer ways for caregivers to better care for themselves as they are helping those they love.

First, take time to do nice things for yourself every day. Diffusing essential oils and listening to your favorite music, taking a hot bath with a nice candle burning, enjoying a good cup of coffee or tea, taking a few minutes with positive reading at morning or night, and just a few minutes resting can help you recharge as you manage your caregiving duties and your own personal and/or professional life responsibilities. It is not selfish for you to take good care of yourself. It is essential.

Second, do some type of exercise. Taking a short walk, practicing yoga, swimming, weight training, running, playing tennis, or any physical activity you enjoy—and can work into your schedule—will help you clear your mind, improve your emotions, feel better physically, and get better sleep. There are many positive benefits to some sort of working out, and it will make you sharper and more emotionally balanced.

Third, have a support system for appropriate help. Don’t try to do it all alone. You will benefit greatly from having someone help you manage your duties and responsibilities. Using yard services, cleaning services, and a trusted sitter, or respite care provider to stay with your loved one while you go get an outing, are ways that can help you better prioritize and be effective in the important role of caregiving. Seek counseling and/or a support group if you need to discuss your duties and get perspectives to help you manage all you do. You may really love doing some activities and not want to give them up, but be realistic. You can’t do everything you once did with the added duties of caregiving.

Fourth, find ways to make caregiving more fun. If you are taking your loved one to a doctor’s appointment, allow a little extra time coming and going to reduce stress and make it more enjoyable. Drive a scenic way to avoid traffic and get the benefits of relaxing along a more pleasant route. Perhaps pick up a sandwich at a nice place or get an ice cream before or after appointments. You can turn mundane and somewhat tiring days of driving and appointments into outings that add joy to your life and make things better for your loved one too. Grabbing nice moments along the way will benefit you both.

Fifth, develop a meditation practice There are many different types of meditation, and any of them will help you relax more and improve your mental clarity, your emotions, and your physical health. Coloring books, puzzles, and any activity such as prayer can help you focus and calm your mind. There are many apps and guided meditations free online and on your smartphone. Any type of meditation you enjoy will benefit you.

Sixth, take up a hobby that gets you outdoors. Walking, gardening, taking photographs, bird watching, or anything that gets you in nature, in fresh air, and some sunlight will do wonders for your overall state of mind and well-being. Just a few minutes doing an outdoor activity you enjoy will boost your mood and help you have a more positive outlook as you manage the often challenging reality of caring for a loved one.

Seventh, keep active socially, and don’t isolate yourself. Try to keep enjoying your friends from civic organizations, from school, from work, from church, and from all walks of life. Social media can help you stay connected and avoid feeling isolated. Letting people know how you are, what you are doing, and keeping other parts of your life active will help you retain balance and better manage sadness or depression that can come with caring for a loved one in decline. Perhaps there are ways to include the person you are caregiving for more in other parts of your life. You’ll find many friends might enjoy coming over to visit you with your loved one, will include you and your loved one in activities, and this create more social engagement for your loved too, if possible.

Eighth, focus on your goals and dreams beyond your caregiving role. Being a caregiver is part of who you are but not all. Journal, make vision boards, and brainstorm ideas for projects, travel, or career opportunities that are uniquely yours. Find things to do that help you feel balanced and fulfilled beyond your caregiving role. A little volunteer work that doesn’t add too much stress, attending a study or reading group, regularly dropping off donations, and any art or craft project where you create and show your work will help add depth to your life and personal identity. Keep it simple, and find things that are fun for you.

by Andrew Paul Williams, Ph.D.

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