January is typically the time for creating resolutions for the new year. The focus is usually on fitness, making healthy changes and working on a “new you” for the new year. There can be a lot of planning involved, depending on how seriously the resolutions are being taken. With caregiving, there is always a great deal of planning. AARP has a guide on planning. Caregivers also could benefit from planning for self-care, respite, and time for themselves, one of the most challenging and important parts of caregiving.
For caregivers making resolutions for the new year, the planning process can involve resolving what to keep that works well for you as a caregiver and eliminate what does not.
Here are a few suggestions for making resolutions:
Keep people around you who provide support and help you take care of yourself. Take time to continually reach out to that person when you need some support or to vent in a safe space.
Keep remembering that you are doing the best you can with the information you have now. Even if the information and situation changes, you will make the best decisions possible, given the circumstances.
Keep doing the things that bring you peace, whether it is a nap, exercise, or something else that helps you take a break. Accept help where and when you can.
Keep taking care of yourself, in whatever way you can, as much as you can.
Keep taking each day one at a time, handling what is in front of you now.
Get rid of the feeling that you need to do everything for your loved one.
Get rid of any guilt that might come from taking a break. Taking care of yourself will help you take care of your loved one.
Get rid of any feelings that you are not doing enough. You are doing all you can, which is enough.
Depending where you are in your caregiving role, these resolutions may seem feasible or unrealistic. Thinking back to when I was a caregiver for my mom, I’m not sure how many of these resolutions I would have embraced. I can only see the value of these resolutions only after the fact. When you are in the middle of chaos, it’s hard to know where to start or how you can continue. Some days are easier, and some days are harder; it is a daily process. It’s easy to demand more from yourself but be patient with yourself. Manage your expectations for what you can realistically accomplish and what needs more time and effort.
Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is the Director of Strategic Projects at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; email@example.com