“I feel like a caged bird!” This is what a 60 year old woman said at one of our caregiving workshops. She was the full-time caregiver of her husband who had Alzheimer’s. “My freedom is gone. I am on duty 24 hours a day!”
Donita Robards understands this feeling. She is a registered nurse (and also a parish nurse at my church) who interacts with many full time caregivers. She offers the following wisdom:
Being a caregiver—especially a full-time caregiver—is one of the most taxing roles many of us will ever find ourselves in. Because of the obligations to those we care for, it is often unthinkable to consider ways to care for ourselves. Yet, it is critical that we do. Finding ways to refresh and nurture our spirits in small ways can provide a deep peace that goes a long way towards improving our mental and spiritual health, as well as our physical health.
Studies show that caregivers frequently die before the ones they care for because the caregivers do not take care of their own needs.
Each of us is unique and must seek our own individual plan for self care. The plan should be realistic and measurable. It is important to find several small things that can you can fit into your already busy schedule.
Some people like to have a theme or a goal which they will work on for a year. It could be learning a new skill, improving a relationship, or reading every book by a favorite author. I have found that a year is too long for me. I like to change things up every couple months.
Following are three simple, specific ways you can practice self care:
Reading is a life-long favorite activity for many people. In the midst of caregiving, it can be a wonderful escape from the daily routine. Reading can be fit into just about any time of day, and contrary to popular opinion, it doesn’t take a large chunk of time. Cut out a newspaper clipping you want to read, and take it with you to a doctor’s appointment. Read a short devotional in the morning, or a chapter of a book while taking a break. If the book would be of interest to the person you are caring for, read it out loud. The point is to invest time in your interests, even if your free-time is limited.
Enjoying nature is a wonderful way to refresh yourself and to connect with God. It can be easier to pray while walking on a wooded trail or along the beach. It may be easier to go to a park in the early morning, on a lunch hour, or after dinner. If possible, get away by yourself. If that is not possible, and the person you are caring for can get out, take them with you. It is better to get out with your charge than to never get out at all.
Food is always a great pick-me-up. Splurge once in a while on a treat. For example, have an ice cream cone. Make it a goal to try every flavor at your favorite ice cream shop. If ice cream is not an option due to dietary concerns or personal preference try something else. How many new ways are there to make a salad? Have fun trying new foods, even at home.
Thank you Donita for sharing some ways that caregivers can refresh and renew their spirits. . .even if it is for just a few minutes.