As a caregiver, your plate is full from tending to the needs of your loved one, such as doctor visits, medication monitoring, home safety needs or visits to a senior living community. Wouldn't it be nice to have hacks to reclaim some "me time" for your self-care?
In honor of National Caregivers Day, February 15, we are happy to share a few hacks that we hope will make all caregivers' lives a little easier.
Keeping up with caregiving responsibilities can be stressful. Instead of tearing your hair out, try using an app to stay organized. Carezone app stores all your loved one’s health information, including medical providers and a list of prescriptions and other medications. The app allows you to share this information with family and friends. Check out the AARP website for a detailed review of apps to help keep caregivers organized.
Even a simple binder with tabs can do the trick to keep all your loved one's medical records in one place. Add a calendar in the front of the binder to keep track of all appointments and other important dates. Include tabs for contact information for medical providers and pharmacy; home health services; assisted living, transportation; your support network and anyone else involved with caring for your aging loved one. Add a tab for any special instructions for care and another tab to write down "to-dos" or notes from conversations with doctors and other members of the care team.
A good night's rest is the cornerstone of any caregiver's self-care plan. Add these hacks to your bed-time routine to get in the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep: Take a warm bath before bedtime—this signals the body that it is time to go to sleep. Start to prepare yourself for sleep by turning off your TV, computer and smart phone about an hour before bed. Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet. If you have to get up at night, use a small night-light and avoid bright lights.
Feeling overwhelmed can lead to anxiety for caregivers. Having a calm mind helps you to think more clearly and have a better memory. Meditation can be an effective tool to keep you centered as you go about your busy day. Try this: Sit for 10 minutes with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. When your thoughts wander, bring your attention back to the breath. Use a simple timer if you want to make sure you keep to a set time.
If your mind is too busy to focus, simply count an even 10 breaths in and 10 breaths out. Note the difference in your level of calmness.
The foods you eat can affect your mood and your stress level. Foods that release the feel-good chemicals in your brain and lower stress are ideal to stave off caregiver burnout. These five foods can help lower anxiety and make your day more enjoyable:
1. Salmon—its omega 3 fatty acids can improve brain function and may lower anxiety.
2. Oatmeal—a cup of warm oatmeal can increase the feel-good chemicals and tame stress.
3. Chamomile tea—this beverage has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that lessen anxiety.
4. Nuts—a handful of nuts like almonds, macadamias, pistachios or walnuts can help when you are feeling overwhelmed.
5. Dark chocolate—its antioxidant content increases the amount of serotonin in the brain and is a good stress-reducer.
Caregiving can be emotionally draining. It's helpful for caregivers to take time away to rejuvenate. Many assisted living communities offer respite care. Your elderly loved one can stay for a few days while you get some well-deserved time off to hit the reset button. Whether you go away on vacation or have a staycation, when you get back, you’ll feel more relaxed and your patience and empathy levels will be restored.
Caregivers sometimes find it difficult to ask for help, and they bear the burden of caregiving alone. Seeing a therapist for individual therapy, going to a caregiver support group and talking to a trusted friend are helpful ways to cope with the challenges of your caregiver journey. The American Psychological Association (APA) provides information on how therapy can be helpful. You may locate a therapist in your local area through the APA Psychologist Locator.
If you are wondering whether a caregiver support group is right for you, take a look at this article from AARP on how a caregiving support group can help. You can find a list of caregiver support groups and other resources on the AARP website.
Try one or two of these hacks in your daily routine. Leave a comment below and tell us about any success you have with them. Also share any hacks you have, so we can add them to a future list.