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Popping the Cork: A New Year's Resolution for Caregivers

by Frances Maguire Paist

Before the ball drops in Times Square, promise yourself this year will be the year you become your own best caregiver. Resolve to do what thousands of others need to do – make time for yourself, because in so doing, you make your time with others better and more valuable.
 
Here are some ideas to get you started:
 
Accept Help
Those called to caregiving know in ways others don’t that giving care too often means putting yourself last. But let’s face it, you can’t do everything. Quite simply, you deserve a break. While you’re at it, don’t just experience the beauty of your own respite. Witness the enjoyment your loved one may get from interacting with others who might step in to provide care while you are gone. Lean on friends and let them help … they want to, you know! And belonging to a church, a synagogue or other religious organization can be very rewarding. Not only will you benefit from interacting with others who believe as you do, you’ll learn firsthand about the miracle of faith.
 
Laugh, Exercise and Relax
Laugh, exercise and relax, not necessarily in that order. But understand the importance of letting go. Laughter has long been touted as an antidote for what ails you, and exercise tones our bodies as well as our minds. It helps to relax muscles, relieves pain and boosts the immune system. Laughter and exercise together are a formidable formula for relaxation, that latter literally a key to life. As for how to do the “ho-ho-ho,” why not rent a funny movie? Read a captivating book? Tell a joke? You can do it. After all, life can be a grin.
 
It’s All About You
Maintain “me” time. No matter your obligations, continue with hobbies and personal routines. Read a good book, dig in the dirt, create a scrapbook or even cook. Take a warm bubble bath. Light some candles. Treat yourself to a manicure or a pedicure. Or maybe even schedule a massage. Keep up with friends and social activities. After all, time away can be a quality investment since you will return refreshed and ready to tackle new challenges.
 
Stay positive!
Your outlook is contagious and by turning the corners of your mouth up, you just might help your loved one do the same. Keeping a journal can provide an outlet for your emotions and can double as a barometer of your moods and attitudes.
 
Take Care of Yourself
This includes eating regular, well-balanced meals; sleeping well; minimizing smoking or, better yet, quitting; and limiting alcohol as well as caffeine consumption. Says Dr. Robert N. Butler, President & Chief Executive of the International Longevity Center who commissioned a Gallup Organization study on sleep, “Poor sleep is a condition that needs to be addressed, diagnosed and treated -- it could be as important as nutrition, exercise and social engagement to the health of older adults." It turns out worry is the big culprit stealing sleep from bedraggled caregivers. And exercise should become a regular part of your life, even if it only means walking three times a week.
 
So there you have it. Five resolutions you should be sure to keep in this year! At a time of life when the daunting burden of caring for a disabled loved one will no doubt be added to an already-heavy load, it’s important to remember your own best health is a necessary pre-requisite to good care. Know you are investing in your own best future by taking care of the business of love.
 
Ready? Set! 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 … Happy New Year!


 


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