Checking In

When we launched Heart of the Caregiver almost a year ago, we opened with a series of blogs focused on family caregiver wellness. After a year, I think it is time for a check-up, so how are you doing?

Are you taking time for yourself on a regular basis?

Are you finding ways to nurture your spiritual health?

How about your social life? Do you get together with friends from time to time and take a break from caregiving?

Are you making healthy choices in what you eat, and getting regular exercise of some kind?

Do you have a support network that can back you up when you need a break?

Click here for tips from the National Institutes of Health on taking care of yourself.

Check out these ideas for more suggestions.

Remember to give yourself regular check-ups to maintain your health in all these areas.

When you take care of yourself, you will do a better job of caring for others. We hope you will join the conversation this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about the things you do regularly to care for yourself that enable you to care for others.

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This week I am thinking about my mother, who would have been 98 years old on August 21. This picture was taken in 2017, her last birthday with my brother and me. Chris and I drew our inspiration for Heart of the Caregiver from my experiences with my mother over the last decade of her life. I’d like to take a moment here to thank you for joining us on this journey and sharing our stories and insights with others who need the support of this community. We pray the information and wisdom you find here provides strength and inspiration that empowers you to face each day with renewed hope and determination. You are someone’s hero, whether you know it or not!

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Caring for the Caregiver is Hard Work!

Do this: take a deep breath, inhaling for a count of 8. Hold that breath for a count of 4, then exhale slowly and see how far you can count. Really push all the air out! At the end of the exhale, inhale deeply again. Repeat this pattern at least 3 times. How do you feel?

When you’re a Family Caregiver, it’s easy to forget about your own needs. In the crush of daily life, when everyone and everything is demanding of your time and attention, things like sleep, food, exercise and prayer or meditation, or even taking a deep breath can quickly get crowded out. A Caregiver who is sleep-deprived, nutrition-starved, stressed out, and socially and spiritually disconnected cannot properly care for another person because their entire being is depleted and exhausted!

Whether the ones you care for are very young or very old, disabled physically or mentally, suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or a related dementia, or another chronic disease or illness, one thing is certain. You must take care of yourself in order to be able to give those you care for the best possible care. Over the next several weeks we will be sharing tips and strategies for improving your own health and wellbeing. To start with, take this survey.

  1.    How’s your sleep? Do you get fewer than 7 hours nightly on the average?
  2.    Do you eat fast food more than 2 times weekly?
  3.    Do you exercise fewer than 30 minutes at least 3 times weekly?
  4.    Do you find yourself missing church activities or opportunities to spend time with friends like you once did?
  5.    Do you frequently feel tired, overwhelmed, and discouraged?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you could definitely benefit from spending some time on improving your health and wellness! If you answered yes to ALL of the questions, DON’T BE DISCOURAGED!! You are not alone, and a healthier you could be within reach just by making just a couple of small changes in your lifestyle. We would encourage you to choose just one of the questions above and begin there. Next week we’ll be talking about Sleep and the Healthy Caregiver, so that might be a great place to begin.

For now, start with this one small thing: just breathe deeply. Try to practice deep breathing throughout your day, and see if you don’t see a change in your attitude and outlook on life. It will make you a better Caregiver, and a better person!

Are You a Caregiver?

Many Caregivers find themselves needing to become more involved in providing care for aging parents or other family members as they get older. This brings a special set of challenges.

Caregivers come in all shapes and sizes. They range in age from very young to ancient! They come from all walks of life, and they are known for their kindness, generosity, and their caring heart.

The heart of the Caregiver feeds their passion for caring for others. It is this unique characteristic, this overpowering drive, that pushes a Caregiver out of their comfort zone from a very early age. They hold doors open as children or have special relationships with grandparents and elderly neighbors. As they grow older, they nurture friendships and develop close bonds with those around them. At work they are known as good listeners, and colleagues who are always willing to pitch in and lend a helping hand when needed. Others know that a Caregiver can be counted on to be a great team player. If married, they might care for spouses, parents or grandparents, in-laws, neighbors, and their own children. There is no retirement age for caregiving. Caregivers are loving, nurturing individuals who enrich our lives and influence our society in innumerable ways.

Many Caregivers find themselves needing to become more involved in providing care for aging parents or other family members as they get older. This brings a special set of challenges. Caring for a parent or relative might need to be long-distance if the Caregiver lives in another city. A family member might be resistant to receiving care, or might be embarrassed or uncomfortable with a son, daughter, or grandchild providing the needed care. The family Caregiver might not even be properly trained to provide the services needed, or might not be able to take time off from work to meet the care needs of local family members. These and many other challenges can be overcome, but only if they are recognized and appropriately addressed.

My brother is a family Caregiver, and I would never have guessed this when we were children, mostly because I was too self-absorbed! He had close friendships growing up, and became a compassionate and caring man as a friend, father, and business owner. His community knows that they can count on him when they need help with any number of things. His friends know that he won’t let them down. And he cares for our mother, now in her late nineties, every day. He coordinates care through the local Home Instead office to cover several hours each day. The professional CAREGiverSM assists my mom with bathing, dressing, errands, housework and meals. She then leaves in the afternoon, and my mom is alone for a few hours. Every evening my brother comes by and visits for a while, just to check in and make sure the day has gone well. My mom presents a number of challenges for my brother, but he overcomes them as they arise, and my mom still lives in her home where she has been for over 50 years. I travel 400 miles every month to spend a few days to a week, and give my brother a break. I appreciate my brother for his caring heart. The care he gives our mother, provided both personally and professionally, gives her independence, and it gives me peace of mind when I live so far away.

So, are you a Caregiver? If you answered yes to this question, then we salute you for the important role you play in your family, your community, and your world. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many people around you! You should feel proud of every smile, every “thank you”, every sigh of relief or appreciative gesture you generate as you move through your day, helping others as you go. Your acts of service honor God even as they help those you care for.

If you believe that you are NOT a Caregiver, then think of the Caregivers who have helped you along the way. Take a little time today and in the days ahead to reflect on people in your life who are Caregivers. Share your appreciation for the ways their care has helped you. Say thank you. In those two simple words, you will be caring for a Caregiver, and in that one small act you will share the care!