How do caregivers take care of themselves?

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Hi - newly surprised with becoming the primary caregiver for my dad after the sudden and unexpected death of my mother 8 weeks ago, I’m hoping to ask caregivers about how they find time for themselves. This isn’t a solicitation. As a new caregiver having to change everything about my world to do this I decided to use this topic for a research study that I need for one of my nursing classes. Thanks

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I just long for the desire to get out of bed.
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Reply to Riverdale
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Sorry for the loss of your mother.
Nothing helps me as much as meditation does. It really keeps my anxiety in check, and honestly it’s not a time-consuming practice. I started by using an app on my phone to guide me. Now I do it on my own either when I wake up or just before I go to bed.
I also read - A LOT. I have the Kindle app on my tablet and my phone so I can read whenever we’re sitting in a waiting room or what have you. Fantasy fiction is my genre. Completely remote from reality. It gives me a mental break. I also do audiobooks in the car or when I’m cooking as a mini escape.
Yoga is another big deal for me. Flexibility and strength are important when you’re caregiving, plus it’s relaxing. I don’t go to a studio because I can’t fit it in. But I’ve purchased a few yoga mp3 videos so - again - I can do it whenever and wherever.
Lastly, good nutrition. IF I don’t have time to cook healthy meals, I’ve taken the time to at least find a couple healthy take out options nearby. Junk/fast food just makes me sluggish and cranky, which is NOT useful, so I avoid it and added sugars as much as possible.
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Reply to Scout0421
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OverTheEdge, I'm so sorry you went through that and came face to face with
the shadow side of human nature. It is really daunting to face and maintain
ones equanimity and sense of trust in the world. It can be shattering.

Just because someone is your family doesn't mean they're your family. It is so
sad. Needs to be grieved and then somehow we have to find the grace to move
on. I'm struggling with this myself and finding my way out.
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Reply to bettina
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How did I take care of myself? I didn't. I was working with the belief that if I kept giving, Mom would actually see my sacrifices and stop TAKING and start doing for herself. I was wrong. She's been in a facility for over a year now & I am still healing. I pray that i have enough years left on this Earth to reclaim at least some of what was taken from me. Horrible caregiving situation - no break, no appreciation, and an overabundance of criticism and complaints and outright backstabbing. Just terrible. And I was in no position to take it all on in the first place due to other issues I'd already been dealing with - personal issues, professional issues, health issues, etc. People who supposedly love me took so much from me and it hurts so bad. And once I had to stop giving so much... they stopped loving me. Sad. I had no idea it was such a flimsy relationship - though I'd have still tried to help since it was clearly the right thing to do. I never expected to be rewarded. It's just that I never expected to be abused. The pain is unbearable to this day.
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Reply to OverTheEdge17
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Two words: home support.

They are everything to me.  Even just a little bit of help makes all the difference in the world.
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Reply to Dorianne
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Boundaries with your loved one! #1
For me, caring for elderly grandmother:
Outdoor time, walking my dog, gardening, sitting in sun.
Reading, cooking, eating out.
Spending time with boyfriend, one on one.
Massage once a month.
Enjoyable employment.
Visiting with other family members via text (support system),
No tv (too stressful).
I’m actually pretty lucky that these activities are part of my life.
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Reply to Gbprincess
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Recognize that you are human—not superhuman. There are days that you will go about your caregiving duties with darkness in your heart and tears in your eyes at the injustice of it all. And then days when you have a feeling of accomplishment and love for the person you’re caring for. Even after being a full time caregiver for 5 years and a part-time one when My husband was still fairly mobile, I learn every day. I know I need to learn self-discipline, especially with cleaning. My messy house upsets me and truthfully, only I can change it.

Don’t refuse help. This week, I’m speaking with our local Agency in Aging to see if I can get some through Medicare.

Trust in yourself and your abilities. You know more about this then you think you do, and you are better at it than you think you can be!
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Reply to Ahmijoy
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Respite.

It is absolutely essential to get away from the situation regularly. This can require some ingenuity if your loved one can't be left alone, but it is more than worth the effort. It is essential.

You need time alone, time with your spouse/children, time with friends. Time to read or do crafts or bake something fancy or catch some fish. You need time in small chunks, like a half an hour in the park, time in longer segments, like half a day to have lunch with an old friend, and occasional vacation time for several days or more. I can't emphasize enough that this isn't something that would be nice -- it is critical to avoid burnout and health issues.

Most of the other things to care for yourself aren't much different than things to do when you aren't a caregiver. The challenge is to take the time and energy for them.
1. See your doctor and dentist and podiatrist, etc. on a regular schedule. Don't cancel appointments for you. Don't put off needed procedures.
2. Exercise. Walking is excellent.
3. Get enough sleep. If your loved one does not sleep through the night, get that solved so that you can.
4. Eat well. This may not be the time to completely overhaul your diet, but try not to skip meals or eat lots of junk.
5. Pay attention to your appearance. If your hair style is important to you keep up your regular appointments. If that is not high on this list of things that matter to you, get a simple style that is quick and easy to maintain and still looks cared-for.
6. This is a very hard one for many of us: maintain your social life, or at least don't let it vanish completely. Use some of your respite time to keep up with your knitting club or attend Bible study or other activities that put you in contact with other people. Have lunch with a good friend. Don't get isolated!
7. Seek support from others who understand caregiving. Join a local support group and/or find an online discussion board you are comfortable with.
8. Be gentle with yourself. Caregiving is probably the hardest thing you will ever do. Don't expect to be perfect at it. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
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Reply to jeannegibbs
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I'm so sorry for the loss of your mother.  I can imagine your whole situation has been a terrible shock.

Only speaking from my experience having also fairly recently begun caregiving to my mom in my home, it's challenging to find time to myself.  In fact, I've posted in the "whine moment" thread rather frequently as of late lol. This site has been great to be able to vent to others who understand and get good advice.

Getting out of the house, even for an hour or so to run errands, grocery shop, etc is kind of like a mini retreat these days.

You are absolutely right in that it completely changes your life, your personal space, your routine. Therapy has helped me also a great deal in coming to terms with and coping with these changes, and how they affect our overall family dynamic.

We're also in the process of touring AL facilities, as I realized that for me in this situation with being married with 3 children at home, in a rather small 3 bedroom house, that I cannot do this indefinitely, especially as my mom is only 56, has a mental disorder and Parkinsons symptoms, and is a shadower. I can't imagine doing this for 20-30 years or more, though I know there are some that do, and they are heroes in my book.

Drawing that line too is part of taking care of myself and my sanity. Kind of gives me a little light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to to work toward getting mom good care but without it having to be me 24/7.
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Reply to FrazzledMama
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