It’s human to want a fresh start. Even though I know that December 31 of one year is rarely that different from January 1 of the next, I greet each New Year’s Day as a symbolic new beginning. I can’t explain it, but the first day of January always gives me a (brief) psychological boost.
Reevaluating Your Goals, Expectations and Attitudes
Like most family caregivers, I always strove for perfection while caring for my elders. Of course, these expectations always left me feeling like I fell short. There is no way that I know of to be a perfect caregiver. The needs of any care receiver can change in an instant. We can miss subtle signals. We are often so tired and stressed that we may absentmindedly forget to pick up a prescription, check an adult brief or do the laundry. All these things can bring on a huge case of unearned caregiver guilt.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the difficult feelings and the pressure that come with this role. Every so often, caregivers need to remind themselves that they are doing their personal best. The new year is a perfect time to take inventory of your life and see what improvements you can make. My thought is that we can look at the coming year with fresh eyes, even though that freshness may only last a moment.
I made the following list of New Year’s resolutions that I felt I could’ve used when I was an active family caregiver. However, some of the items on this list that address self-care and self-love are important for everyoe, not just those who are providing care. Even if you only stick to one of these, remember that progress is good, no matter how small.
A Caregiver’s New Year’s Resolutions
- I give myself permission to not keep the following resolutions or to keep them only partway.
- When I feel I am imperfect, I will remember that guilt is not an option as long as I know I did the best I could, given the circumstances.
- I will find time alone for myself, even though that seems impossible. That may mean asking for help from people and resources I’ve never considered before.
- Regardless of how deserving the source, I will say no to requests for my time when I know I can’t add any more to my plate.
- I will remember that family members and friends who are not care receivers deserve some of my time. This may mean a little less of my attention will go to my care receiver, and that is okay.
- I will follow through with my own medical appointments and screenings, including dental cleanings and eye exams.
- I will find a way to monitor my own energy levels so I can recharge my batteries before I hit the point of exhaustion and burnout.
- I will remember that seeking advice from professionals, organizations and fellow caregivers is a sign of strength, not weakness.
- I will remember that my care receiver didn’t choose the illness or disability that he or she is living with.
- I will remember that I didn’t choose this life for my care receiver either, so I won’t be a martyr to their illness.
- I will remember that taking care of my own needs isn’t selfish. Taking care of myself benefits everyone I love.
- I will get appropriate help for myself if depression, anxiety or other mental health issues become apparent to me, my friends or my family.
- I will be open to alternative ways of caring for myself. This can include massage, aroma therapy, some form of meditation, exercise, attending a caregiver support group, participating in an online caregiver forum, seeking out respite care, or meeting with a therapist.
Setting Your Own Resolutions for the New Year
This list is merely a starting point. What resolutions would you add for yourself? Which would you delete? If you print out this list and hang it in a prominent place, you can work toward these goals a little bit every day. Even looking at it once a month will help you view your situation with a fresh perspective.
Remember, happiness isn’t about perfection—it’s about having realistic expectations. We all have room to adjust our expectations to more closely match reality, and that change alone can help us have a happier and more productive year.