Caregiver’s Corner by Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) Board Vice-President, caregiver and guest blogger, Maggie DePuye-Phillips
In keeping with the Brain Energy Support Team’s (BEST) theme for the summer, wellness, I’d like to focus on the importance of caregivers taking care of themselves. This is a common area of concern for many, if not, all caregivers. We focus so much on the loved one we care for that we often neglect our own needs, which may lead to burnout, stress, fatigue, and inefficiency in our performance. What good is that?
Have you heard of the airline oxygen mask analogy? When you fly on a plane, the flight attendant will typically go over emergency procedures and give instructions to put your oxygen mask first, before helping others. Why is this important and how does it relate to caregivers? If you run out of oxygen, you cannot help anyone else. So, if you do not take care of yourself FIRST, how can you take care of your loved one? Ponder that for a moment. What is it that makes it so challenging for us caregivers to take care of ourselves? Simply put: we have conditioned ourselves to believe that we are selfish if we do not consider others before us. It is our true nature to do for others because we possess the qualities of caring, nurturing, being responsible, supportive and competency. Like the Energizer Bunny, we keep going and going and going. Eventually, that bunny stops, when the batteries die. As caregivers, we eventually wear down and stop functioning!
When we apply self-care, we recharge our batteries and restore the physical, mental and spiritual health we so desire to maintain. Rest, healthy eating, going to a support group, reading a relaxing book, gardening, meditating, getting a manicure/pedicure and yoga or exercise are all positive ways for proper self-care. And this is not just a one-time deal–this must be done on a regular basis! Think about the responsibilities of owning a car and the maintenance
it requires to run smoothly. If we care so much about our vehicles to put in fuel, get regular oil changes, rotate tires and top off fluids, we certainly deserve to care about regular maintenance on ourselves, yes? Without these outlets, we will only return running into the ground feeling burnt out, irritated, lonely, sick and even depressed. Yet, when we do get
respite care or even take a ten-minute break, we can’t help but feel some guilt, right?
You are not alone.
At a recent caregiver conference I attended in Tukwila, I had the pleasure of listening to Elaine Sanchez, an author and co-founder of a caregiver website, CaregiverHelp.com. (more details on this website to come). Ms. Sanchez was the keynote speaker and presenter of two breakout sessions, which I attended as well. One of her workshops, Guilt: Get Lost, You Big Bully, was a huge eye-opener for me, as guilt is a common emotion I experience from time to time as a caregiver. I learned a variety of strategies to release guilt but the bottom line is, it is all a choice to feel guilty! Why choose to waste time feeling guilty when you can make use of your time better by feeling happy?
Change the way you think the next time you do some self-care, and I guarantee you, you will like the results. Well, it’s time to get rid of that guilt! Let’s put on our oxygen masks and recharge! Remember, self-care is not a luxury, rather, it is a necessity! Not only will our loved one appreciate us more, but we will appreciate ourselves better.
Until next time, enjoy the summer, make wonderful memories, and remember to take time for yourself!
Information & Resources
Check out this online resource: www.caregiverhelp.com. This site, developed by Elaine Sanchez and her husband, Alex, is an excellent tool for not only caregivers but support groups and professionals working with caregivers. Videos, workbooks, training and her books are available to you to tap into; however, it requires a paid membership. There is a 7-day free trial to see if this website tailors to your needs. Click on the FAQs tab of the home page to learn more information.
The Washington State Family Caregiver Support Program offers information, support and services to unpaid caregivers caring for an adult 18 years or older with functional disabilities. Services may include: referrals, consultation, education, training, support groups, counseling, respite care and more.
Powerful Tools for Caregivers, a national award-winning educational class series in a six-week class format, are offered throughout Washington State. Check to see if a class is offered near you by clicking on this website.
Building Better Caregivers online course: Are you caring for someone with dementia, memory problems, post-traumatic stress disorder or a serious brain injury? Consider taking this online course, developed by Stanford University, which helps caregivers take better care of themselves. This course is offered free of charge, courtesy of the National Council on the Aging.
Caregiving Matters Support Group: Are you looking for a face-to-face support group to join locally? Look no further! Starting in September, BEST will host a monthly support group for BESTies’ caregivers at Our BEST Space, every third Saturday from 1:00-3:00 pm. The group will be a place to obtain information, exchange ideas, and maintain friendships and will be facilitated by yours truly. If you are interested or would like more information, feel free to contact me via email: Maggie@brainenergysupportteam.org or call the BEST office.
From my caregiver toolbox, I will share various tips to help you become more effective as a caregiver. The following wellness tips are based on lessons learned from the book, Letters from Madelyn, by Elaine Sanchez.
• Set aside some time each day for yourself
• Get out in nature
• Learn something new
• Redefine fun
• Accept help
• Find a safe release for negative emotions
• Savor happy memories
• Stay connected socially
Once again, I am plugging for Elaine Sanchez, author of the book, Letters from Madelyn:Chronicles of a Caregiver. She wrote this book in honor of her mother, who wrote letters to Elaine about her life as a caregiver for her husband who had a stroke. Here is a description of her book:
A Kansas farm woman’s life turns upside down when her husband suffers a debilitating stroke. Tender, gritty, and uproariously funny, Madelyn’s letters to her daughter deal with the grim realities of aging, illness, and long-term caregiving, and prove that a person can grow mentally and spiritually, even when a loved-one’s life is not ending easily.
Lastly, I leave you with two quotes to ponder:
As long as we have the ability to think and to reason, we have the power to choose our attitude toward any person, situation or event. ~Elaine Sanchez
You are good enough. You are capable. You are important. You are worthy. You are loved. And you are not alone.~Anoymnous