Strategies for Thriving

People in old car

By Lisa M. Petsche

Family caregivers provide practical assistance and enhance the quality of life for frail seniors who might otherwise require placement in a long-term care facility. Typically, they are spouses or adult children, many seniors themselves. Their role involves physical, psychological, emotional and financial demands. It can be a heavy load.

If you are a caregiver, consider the following strategies for not only surviving, but also thriving, in the year ahead. Even if you’re not a caregiver, these self-care tips are worth checking out.

Reduce your stress
  • Learn as much as possible about your relative’s illness and its management, and educate family and friends to help them understand. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with challenges can go a long way to reduce anxiety and foster a sense of control.
  • Accept realities you can’t change and focus instead on those you can influence.
  • Pick your battles; don’t make a major issue out of every concern.
  • Use positive self-talk. Emphasize phrases such as “I can,” “I will” and “I choose.”
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing.
  • Do things that bring inner peace, such as meditating, reading something uplifting, journaling or listening to music.
  • Create a relaxation room or corner in your home – a tranquil spot you can retreat to in order to rejuvenate.
  • Develop a calming ritual to help you unwind at the end of the day.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices: eat nutritious meals, get adequate rest, exercise and see your primary physician regularly.
  • Seek ways to streamline your life. Set priorities and don’t waste time or energy on unimportant things. Simplify necessary tasks. If finances permit, hire a housecleaning service or a personal support worker or companion for your relative, to free up some of your time and energy.
  • Be flexible about plans and expectations. Take things one day at a time.
  • Minimize contact with negative people.
  • Don’t keep problems to yourself—seek support from family members, friends, or a counselor. Also try out a caregiver support group.
  • Ask other family members to share the load, and be specific about the kind of assistance you need. Also find out about services in your community that may be of help. The local office on aging is a good resource.
  • Take advantage of respite services in your community, such as day-care programs and facilities that offer temporary residential care.
Increase your joy
  • Stay connected to people who care, through visits, phone calls, e-mail, or letters.
  • Cultivate a healthy sense of humor. Read the comics, watch a TV sitcom now and then, or rent funny movies.
  • Do something you enjoy every day, perhaps savoring a cup of tea, reading the newspaper or engaging in a hobby (revive a former pastime or try something new). Make it a priority, even if all you can manage is 15 minutes.
  • Put together a pamper kit of items that give you a lift – for example, a favorite magazine or CD, scented candles, fragrant shower gel or body lotion, and gourmet coffee or tea—and delve into it when you find your spirits drooping.
  • Bring a bit of nature into your home: get a plant to nurture or buy fresh flowers.
  • Create little things to look forward to: visiting with a friend, watching a movie, ordering takeout food or getting something new to wear.
  • Plan a special outing with or without your relative—perhaps to a restaurant or a cultural event.
  • Focus on the good things in your life, such as supportive relationships, and seek beauty and tranquility through appreciation of art and nature. Learn to live in the moment and enjoy life’s simpler pleasures. MSN

Lisa M. Petsche is a social worker and freelance writer specializing in boomer and senior health matters. She has personal experience with elder care.

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