New Year’s Resolutions for Caregivers
New Year’s Resolutions are all about addressing the challenges you face in day-to-day life better. When you find yourself in the position of caring for a loved one struggling with the effects of aging or disease, the challenges that fill your days and weeks start to change.
Many of the traditional New Year’s resolutions about paying off debt or working out more may still apply and be worth pursuing, but for some caregivers these may feel like piling on more pressures to a life that’s already become full of them. You may be better off making New Year’s resolutions that are more specific to your needs.
We’ve got a few general ideas to get you started, but recommend that you turn each of these into a more specific commitment. It’s easier to hold yourself to a resolution that’s more specific – for example “I will be more patient” gives you no way to track progress, but “when I get frustrated, I will take deep breaths to calm myself before saying anything angry” gives you something specific to succeed at.
1. I will take time to share old stories and memories with my loved one.
If you’re the caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient, this one can be especially meaningful. Even if you’re taking care of a loved one not suffering from that degree of memory loss though, committing to take a trip down memory lane once a week can be a nice way to remember what a full life they’ve lived. You’re more likely to keep this New Year’s resolution if you make a routine out of it – 20 minutes devoted to sharing memories every Sunday night at dinner, for instance.
2. I will make a point to take care of myself.
When so much of your life is taken over by someone else who has more complicated needs than you do, it becomes a little harder to think about your own needs. But no one benefits if your health gets ruined in the process.
What’s one way you can keep yourself healthier moving forward? A promise you can make yourself that it won’t add stress to your life to keep (because stress is decidedly not healthy)? Maybe it’s going for daily walks with your loved one, or trying to stick to a healthier diet for both of you. Maybe it’s taking time for yourself to get to the gym or just get more of the rest you need.
3. I will devote time to all the loved ones that need me.
The loved one you’re taking care of needs you, but they’re not the only important person in your life. It may be hard, but it is possible to find a balance between providing the care of an aging or sick family member and still continuing to spend time with your other friends and family. This ties back to self-care – if you’re not seeing the other people you love, your life is missing something you need.
4. I will find healthy outlets for dealing with any anger, frustration, and grief that comes with taking care of a hurting loved one.
Your loved one can’t help what they’re going through, but their struggles can put a lot of pressure and difficulty on you. It may be difficult to never take those feelings out on them, but there are methods that can help. Support groups or therapy can help you determine ways to cope with any negative emotions that threaten to overtake you.
5. I will ask for help if it ever gets to be too much.
Everyone needs a break sometime. Even if it doesn’t always feel like it, there are people you can turn to for help – whether other family members, friends, and your church congregation; or people whose job it is to take care of the elderly through home health care roles or in assisted living facilities.
It’s not admitting failure to admit you need help. You need your own health in order to be able to take care of theirs.
New Year’s resolutions aren’t always easy to keep, but if you can manage a few of these, you can create a better 2015 for yourself in spite of your loved one’s challenges.