It’s National Caregivers Month and we’re on a roll talking about common caregiving challenges. Many of you know Angie, who blogs about her experience caring for her husband who has Early Stage, Younger Onset Alzheimer’s.
Her latest blog is a great example of this week’s topic, caregiver stress management:
In my support group we sometimes talk about the often heard phrase, “take time to take care of you.” The biggest questions for me are: How? When? Between work, church, family and John; I barely have time to make sure my toenails are polished.
But the conversation made me think, do I take care of myself? I’ve tried different things: a gratitude journal, meditation, the gym, food, drink. All had their pros and cons. As a writer, I liked the idea of the journal. The premise was simple, just jot down five things a day. Seemed easy enough, but after a few weeks I was circling around the same things. I couldn’t keep it fresh, so I got bored.
Meditation was hard. I kept thinking about the things I should be doing or not doing. Or the things I could write down in my gratitude journal. I couldn’t concentrate on meditating so I gave that up.
The gym I chose was because a friend of mine said she and her husband signed up so John and I should sign up too. We did! John keeps asking why we signed up and doesn’t want to go. I never see my friends there and after three weeks of a 6:45 am water aerobics class; I went on vacation, overslept a couple of times, had early morning doctor’s appointments, had early morning work meetings, and injured my shoulder. Now that my shoulder feels better summer is over and its too cold!
Food and drink are still in the running but they bring their own problems. Enough said.
I have found the best thing I do for myself is through friendships. The support group at the Alzheimer’s Association has enriched my life. It is a place where I can be very real about my feelings, challenges, and fears. It is a great relief to have that level of understanding.
A Weight Watchers member for a number of years, I have made friends at the meetings. I’m still far from goal, but am encouraged to keep on program. Each Saturday morning we check in and cheer each others efforts.
For ten years, I belonged to an investment club. We could never pick the hottest stocks, but we were smart enough to get out of the market before everything went down the tubes. We cashed in, got our original investment back, and spent the excess on a weekend in San Francisco—complete with a gourmet brunch on a sailboat in the middle of the bay. We still meet once a month or so to visit. These are close lifetime friends that listen without judgment.
Last year I began meeting monthly with a spiritual director. I wanted help in developing a meaningful prayer life and to discover when God was speaking to me. So far it has been a powerful journey.
Find humor and joy in each day.
Tell my husband that I adore him.
Let myself cry.
Understand that everything does not have to be homemade.
Make lists. Complete the items on the lists.
Live in the moment.
Realize my limitations, and John’s.
Don’t be resentful.
Lastly, I carry a kazoo in my car. There are times when I need to play the kazoo at the top of my lungs. It is hard to be unhappy or take yourself too seriously when you are playing a kazoo.