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  • Cameron Oglesby

5 steps to a happier new year of caregiving

For caregivers, 2023 can be a stressful, frustrating, guilt-filled year. Or it can be a loving, fulfilling, and affirming one. These five steps could make the difference:

Step 1 – Don’t judge yourself

Just by showing up for and committing to the incredibly challenging job of caregiving, and getting through each day, you’re already doing a good job.

“You don’t go before a judge and say, am I a good daughter, am I a good son,” says Yosaif August, author of Coaching for Caregivers. “There are no arbiters; there’s no mediation. We’re the only ones who get to decide.”

So decide to go easy on yourself. You’re doing fine.

Step 2 – Good enough is good enough

Or, as 17th Century author Francois de la Rochefoucauld wrote, “Perfect is the enemy of good.”

You’re not going to be perfect. No human can.

Mary Ingalls Brown, a Kaiser Permanente healthcare behavioral health counselor, agrees. “This idea of wanting to be everything for the person, to make it a perfect day every day – the reality is that there is no perfect,” she says. “Perfect is going to be unpredictable, it’s going to be messy. The only thing you have control over is how you choose to respond.”

And according to Judith Pedersen, executive director of the Hearts of Hope Foundations and a family caregiver herself, most caregivers don’t respond very well. “We as caregivers beat ourselves up for the things we didn’t do,” she explains. “Instead, we should give ourselves credit for what we did do…Permit yourself to be not perfect.”

Good enough may fall a little short of perfect, but it’s a long, long way from bad.

Step 3 – Don’t go it alone

More than 60% of family caregivers say they do all or most of the family caregiving.

That’s a heavy emotional burden. Sharing it with others who’ve been there can lighten it. So put together an informal support group, or search “caregiver support groups near me” online. You’ll be able to let it out and discuss your physical and emotional stresses with other caregivers and learn how they’ve coped with them. And you could get some valuable input from others who are farther along in the process than you are.

The right kind of professional input can help, too. For example, even if you don’t need a custom-designed holistic coordinated senior care management plan, our thorough three-part assessment of your loved one’s physical, emotional, cognitive, and psychosocial needs can give you valuable input. Because it also covers both your and their likes and dislikes, values, priorities, preferences, schedules, and interests, it can be a big help with your caregiving organization and priorities. (Please contact us to learn more.)

Step 4 – Take a minute for yourself

That’s right, just a minute to reduce stress and mentally refuel and recenter yourself.

Even 60 seconds of light exercise can make you feel better immediately, Dr. Chris Gilbert writes in Psychology Today.

Or you can

· Listen to or play a minute of music you like.

· Meditate or do a yoga pose.

· Watch a few scenes from a movie or television show on your phone or tablet.

· Laugh with a streaming comedy show.

· Read a book or listen to an audiobook.

· Hug a warm washcloth to your face.

· Sit in the sun, open a window and listen to the birds.

· Take a walk around the block or a mini-workout outdoors.

· Pick up your knitting or crocheting.

· Play solitaire online.

· Do some online shopping.

Start with one minute, build up to five or ten. Every day has 1,440 minutes, so pick one and get started.

Step 5 – Be kind to yourself, too

Devoting a huge chunk of your life – or maybe almost all of it – to caring for someone else is a major act of continuous, unconditional love. So, as August asks, how about sparing some unconditional love for yourself? Or, as Brown says, “At the end of the day, you need to be patient and compassionate with yourself.”

Each day brings a fresh start and a new chance to be there for someone you love. And, if you were less than perfect yesterday, today’s a new chance to do better.

You’re learning in one of the toughest classes there is and doing the best you can. So give yourself credit and be kind to yourself.

You’ll be giving yourself and the person you’re caring for a happier new year.

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