A new year means a fresh start and a chance to regroup, reflect and make some positive changes. Whether you are caring for an aging parent, a sick spouse or a child with complex needs, being a caregiver is an incredibly demanding role. As we welcome 2018, take a minute to recognize all your hard work and then commit to making your health a priority in the coming months. This year, resolve to:
- Take care of you. Caregivers are often loving, generous people who are willing to put other’s needs before their own. But these generally positive traits can have a detrimental effect, as the daily stress of caregiving can potentially put you at risk for chronic disease. Identify a priority for your wellbeing—maybe you need to lose some weight, increase your exercise, get more sleep or find a therapist to help you manage stress. Taking care of yourself will benefit everyone you love.
- Spend time together. In the throes of caregiving, you may find it difficult—or even forget—to set aside time to just enjoy your loved one’s company. Commit to doing one fun activity together every week. Whether it’s baking something delicious, going to the movies, or walking to your favourite coffee shop, building your connection and creating fond memories will be very restorative.
- Reconnect and get away. One of the greatest challenges of caregiving is the isolation that can come with it. To care better and longer, try reaching out to friends and working on your relationships. Book a girls’ trip or a couples’ retreat, score concert tickets, relax together at the spa, or if you can’t leave, host a movie night at home. Friendships will help with depression and anxiety and bring more joy into your life.
- Practice saying yes. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to resist offers of help or be unwilling to ask for support. Make a list of the things you could easily delegate. When someone asks how they can help, look to your list. Family, friends or neighbours can assist with school drop offs, doctor’s appointments or respite care when you need a break. Your loved one will probably appreciate the new face and you’ll return feeling refreshed.
- Get organized. Take a little time at the start of the year to set yourself up for success. Update doctor and care provider numbers on your phone and try a caregiving app for medication and appointment reminders. Consider booking regular house cleaning, yard services or home-delivered meals and organize important financial, legal and medical documents. Getting a good grasp on things from the get-go will make your responsibilities less overwhelming.
Leave unrealistic expectations, self-criticism and guilt in 2017. While training for a marathon or launching a new business may not be reasonable goals, you can still start the year fresh and take things one step and one resolution at a time. You’ve heard it before, but it really does ring true: the healthier and happier you are, the better the caregiver you will be.