Caregivers: Refresh in 2015

Caregivers: Refresh in 2015

Posted on January 1, 2015 by ElderCare Resources in Blog, Caregiver Education, Caregiving, Inspiration

Caregivers need to take care of themselves, too

By Ruth Z.W. Johnson

As 2014 ends, and we begin a new year, I thought it would be a good day to share a few thoughts that have been floating around in my head.

I would like to acknowledge all the amazing caregivers I had the privilege to meet this year as I spoke at churches and to other groups. You have inspired and blessed me. May God bless you as you continue to follow your calling and share your gift.

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Thank you to the readers who have contacted me to let me know they enjoy this column and to those who have contributed questions, ideas and stories. It has been so gratifying to meet new friends and renew old acquaintances.

To all of you who read this column — even if you are not presently a caregiver — I want to encourage you to take time to uplift someone who is. A greeting card with a short hand-written note, a well-timed visit, a plate of homemade cookies or other small gestures can do wonders to brighten a difficult day.

For you who are caregivers, here is an acrostic that recognizes some of your basic needs. Realizing that you do indeed have needs of your own and allowing those needs to be met (by yourself or others) will assist you in fulfilling your role to the best of your ability.

Care — Yes, care for the caregiver. You cannot constantly give without receiving sustenance in return. Make you own health — spiritual, mental and physical — a priority.

Assistance — No one, no matter how capable, can do everything that needs to be done. Learn to say “yes” when a friend or family member offers to help.

Respite — This is one of my favorite words in the caregiver vocabulary. I love to sing it to the tune of Aretha’s “RESPECT” — “all I’m asking for is a little R-E-S-P-I-T-E!” This is a requirement and necessary for continued service.

Education — Learning all you can about your loved one’s disease process will make your responsibilities much easier and help you know what to expect in the future. Ask questions at doctor visits. Read an applicable book. Abundant, easy-to-understand information is available on the Internet.

Good nutrition — This quote from Ann Wigmore says it well: “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”

Inspiration — Sharing your experiences with other caregivers, joining a support group, and reading this column each week are all ways to be encouraged and reminded that the path you have chosen may not be the easiest, but it is the best

Vacation — Unlike respite, which is usually a short period of rest, a vacation is an extended period of planned activity, away from everyday life. I can hear you say, “How can I get away?” Where there is a will, there is almost always a way. Just anticipating and planning a vacation can improve your attitude.

Easy-going manner — Forget perfect. If you are obsessive-compulsive (as I have a tendency to be), get past having to have everything in its place all the time. Sometimes you have to practice being laid back — especially when it comes to the non-essentials.

Recreation — Maintaining a daily time in your schedule for a favorite pastime, a diversion, or some entertainment will do wonders for your overall well-being, and therefore, make you a better caregiver.

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Caregivers are by nature, givers, and often have to be reminded it is OK to think about their own needs. In fact, it is essential to do so. Neglecting yourself in the present will mean you do not have what it requires to meet the needs of others in the long term.

Ruth Z.W. Johnson has more than 12 years’ experience, both personally and professionally, as a caregiver. Her first novel, “Or Be Reconciled,” was recently published.

Published: The Times News