Taking care of a loved one who is ill is difficult, time-consuming, and often heartbreaking labor. It takes a physical toll on those providing care, and for those caring for someone with memory loss, it also takes an emotional toll. And while many people make plans to eat healthier and be more active in the New Year, caregivers usually skip the resolution.
“More than half of the caregivers we serve report high or very high levels of emotional stress,” says Sheila Williams, program director for Sunnyside Community Services. The program Ms. Williams’ directs, CARE NYC, focuses on caregivers whose loved ones have Alzheimer’s or dementia—an estimated 390,000 New Yorkers care for a loved one with these conditions. Caregivers often feel that even taking a little time for themselves is impossible, or selfish. They often forget their own needs, says Ms. Williams.
Caregivers: This year, make a resolution that helps you take control, take care of yourself, and take a breather. Make 2018 better for you and your loved one.
- Enjoy your time with your loved one. Share one fun activity with them each week. Make sure you balance stressful caregiving tasks with enjoyable ones.
- Stop feeling guilty when you take time for yourself. You must practice self-care to ensure you are rested and ready to care for your loved one.
- Learn more about your loved one’s disease. Having the facts will make it easier to plan for the long-term. The support staff at Sunnyside Community Services suggest The Thirty-Six Hour Day as one book for caregivers seeking to learn more.
- Join a support group, or seek out other caregivers. Finding others who share similar experiences can provide you with ideas and comfort.
- Prioritize personal interests. Remember to emphasize parts of your life separate from your caregiving role.
- Express yourself. It is understandable for caregivers to get frustrated, disappointed, and even depressed. When those feelings arise, tell someone.
- Listen to your body. Don’t ignore signs that you’re getting worn down. When you’re healthy, you’re a better caregiver.
- Do one thing for yourself or your loved one that you’ve been putting off; you will probably feel accomplished and gratified after you’ve completed this task.
- Sleep more. Being well-rested keeps caregivers healthy and ready to face new challenges.
- Ask for help. There are organizations across New York City that exist to serve caregivers, including Sunnyside Community Services, which assists caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in all five boroughs.
You can learn more about this free program by calling 877-577-9337.