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I am needing to fit in more activities for my own self care, self development and I am looking for some at home ideas. I'd like to try to do what I can from home to maintain a sense of self in all of this...maintain friendships as I can, family connections, stay fit and more positive while caring for a parent. Parent will go to day program 4 or so hours/ day but beyond that any ideas for caring for myself while caregiving. What do you do as a caregiver to care for yourself? What have you fit into your routine or what would you like to fit into your routine?

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Congratulations, gersto! It's taken me many years, too, but I'm finally going to be taking my last required course to get my Associates of Arts degree next semester. It's got to be a great feeling. Best wishes.
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Just type in online courses and there are plenty of colleges that have free courses, and skillshare has courses in diy, and other skills.
Think about what made you happy as a child, and then try to find activities that are similar.
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Thank you for the ideas. It is just nice to hear some. I am trying to work on an online degree and play piano. I get discouraged in the online degree as it is so slow( one class a term) but it helps to think it can be finished and maybe not worry so much about when. It helps to hear things people do. I can definetely get out brief times to walk...or lift weights for a few minutes. Maybe ill keep a little calendar of my own activities i "fit in" each day as a start. Mom does enjoy listening to the piano.
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Thank you dejavuagain! I think back to what I could have done differently or better and the answer is nothing because my sibling didn't participate in the caregiving. I'm telling you-you're so right! And I had to leave my Maryland and move in with mom in Massachusetts!
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I always had the desire to get a college degree, but over the years never had the opportunity to attend college except for a class here and there. When I became a caregiver for my blind and ill husband and became housebound, I attended credit classes at the local community college (one at a time), and also signed up for Online college courses. The challenge of the assignments and interacting with other students and teachers focused and balanced me. In due time I earned an Associate's Degree in General Studies. I was in my mid-70's by this time and was retired so it didn't add to my work resume', but I had tremendous satisfaction from making one of my longtime dreams come true. A younger person in the work force could benefit from having a degree. The years pass swiftly, and in my case, at the end of 6 or 7 years, I had earned my degree.
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Here's some video's of Nextdoor.com (a great way to meet neighbors and be connected with things going on around you... Events, volunteering, crime alerts, etc) today/video/meet-the-woman-behind-the-new-social-network-nextdoor-584208963825 and cnbc.(if your neighborhood doesn't have one started it's easy to start one).
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Six months IS an eternity when you are immersed in constant caring for someone who thwarts your efforts at every turn. I'm sorry for your loss. It is so sad that the only relief is the passing of a loved one.
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Dejavuagain: My mother is deceased. I was just stating the truth about caring for her for what seemed like an eternity but it was 6 months.
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Do yoga and feel relax.This is best way.
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Exercise is very important and I love to be outdoors. I am fortunate that my mother doesn't have to be watched every moment of the day, so I can usually take a walk or a bike ride or a swim or a paddle up the creek that runs by her back yard in Florida.

There are some days when I can't fit in even a 10 minute walk, but I usually do some work outside, planting flowers, hanging out the laundry, filling the bird feeders and so forth. Mom likes to watch whatever I'm doing, so the puttering in the yard is exercise for me and entertainment for her.

So far she hasn't taken to wandering off down the block, but who knows what may develop. Her dementia at this time runs more to reinventing reality, repeating questions and comments ad nauseam, and refusing to bathe or change into clean clothes.
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When Mom wasn't home, I'd make a special meal for my girlfriend on "full service" dates. Let's admit it: a little loving improves your attitude and complexion. Your disposition towards caregiving is more positive, and there's a bounce on your step. There was nothing like taking a long bubble bath with your honey, and talk the most intimate things. Yes people, because relationships take a lot of work if you want them to last. Mom was a bingo freak. Really competitive. So on weekends I'd give her $150 to go knock herself out at the church across the street. I'd take the time to snuggle with my girlfriend and watch Lifetime. Television for women? Ha! There's a lot of us boys who watch and sometimes weep.
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Llamalover, nobody here mentioned "free time." It's about fitting in activities to save your sanity and health no matter how demanding caregiving is.

If it is truly impossible to take even 1/2 hour out of the day for your own renewal then you are way overextending yourself and in dire need of relief, either in-home assistance or a few hours a week in day care. I know this is easier to say than it is to pull off---unless you have lots of money (funny how that can dictate one's quality of life!)---but you deserve a life of your own even if it's only for a little while each day.

P.S. Since you used past tense, is your mom in a care facility now or has she passed away?
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What free time? I sure didn't have any as mother undid everything I had done EVERY DAY FOR 6 MONTHS!
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I just crochet, lots and lots of squares of double crochet, which is easy to master. I make dishclothes of all colors and hand them out to friends and family, until they have too many! Beautiful things, and so useful. Feels so good to use them instead of the commercial ones I use to buy. But everyone else has offered so many suggestions...you could try them all. My caregiver days are over for the moment, but peaceful beautiful useful activities are good for brains everywhere.
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Gardening: planning gardens, designing gardens, looking through gardening catalogues.

Music: warm up a cup of cider or your favorite tea and allow yourself to be transported by your favorite music.

Art: colored pencil work has helped me relax many times.

Crafts: crocheting, knitting, sewing, quilting, embroidery, and especially garden crafts. The arborvitae and junipers laden with charming little pale blue berries are quaking as I eye them speculatively and decide which or both will contribute to this year's holiday wreaths.

Cooking, baking - especially something with spices like cinnamon which have soothing properties. Just inhale from a jar of cinnamon (don't do anything more than inhale though) and see if it relaxes you.

And of course, eating the results of those therapeutic cooking and baking sessions heightens the relaxation. I remember the aromas and the wonderful experience of eating my mother's spice cakes which we baked after we arrived home from school.
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My idea for staying mentally healthy while caregiving is to get out of the house. I don't try to figure out what I can do in the house, except maybe to listen to music or watch shows on my computer at night. To take care of myself, I find ways to get out of the house -- going for walks or even shopping, going to the senior center to exercise or talk to people. I'm not big on talking on the phone, so prefer to get out. I work from home, so getting out is a good break.
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We have a neighborhood social network called Nextdoor site which is nationwide (if you don't have one, I believe you can start on for you r neighborhood..This is a easy way to engage with your neighbors and start many social events while knowing what's happening in your neighborhood (and the immediate surrounding neighborhoods). Our neighborhood site now has about 50% that has joined... Every topic is discussed like garage sales, theater events, cargiving, jobs, dog walking, crime, etc). I highly recommend checking this out.
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Genealogy! I find this more relaxing and great to later discuss with your parent. Even if they can't offer any help - just discussing relatives and their past really brings you together. There are many books and web sites to help you. Many free sites and of course, paying sites.... I also do rubber stamping and crafts (that I share with the residents of nursing facilities). We have been making all types of cards for their loved ones... Best of luck!!
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I really enjoy gardening and going to the dog park (outdoors) and puzzles and bubble baths (indoors). It's like mediation for me. I just "go away" in my head and it find it very relaxing. And the dog park is just fun!
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I second the suggestion on knitting. It is similar to meditating. The rhythmic nature of knitting is very calming.
If you want to protect your own brain, the physical exercise and socializing are the best methods. Force yourself to find ways to be around people more often or find respite care, so you can get out of the house as often as you can.
Experts also suggest that you take a totally new activity. I started to oil paint for the first time in my life. It stretches my brain in every direction.
Whatever you decide to do, keep it up!
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Exercise is vital. I have a treadmill that I use most days. I play quick games on iPad that require some mental skills so I don't feel like my brain is turning to mush. And gardening is always good for the soul.
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All the suggestions are good but what it comes down to is what are you interested in or enjoyed doing before being a caregiver. Whatever your hobbies were before caregiving you have to make time to do those things you once enjoyed. This is also a time to explore something you may have wanted to try doing at home. I teach a class called Powerful Tools for Caregivers which is about us taking care of ourselves and therefore it helps us to be better caregivers. The weekly action plans that we have the class work on in setting a goal is not to say I am going to walk 7 days a week and then you only walk two days and you feel like you failed. Be realistic and say to yourself "I will walk two days for 1/2 an hour" If you walk more great but two days you probably will be able to achieve that. So try something you wanted to do or have done in the past but be realistic about how often.
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I also like to play the game 'candy crush' on my phone. Even just for a few minutes while waiting for my mom on the commode. I think anything that takes the focus off of the task at hand!
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I also treat myself to a massage or foot rub when i can. I find even 15 minutes really helps. I see others mentioned coloring books. I had bought them for my mom but while it's hard to get her to engage, i find it quite relaxing! Even if my mom isn't in the mood to color, she seems to be ok just watching me so it works for us both. The only problem is it doesn't happen too often so i take what i can get
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I walk, life some weights, read, pray, journal sometimes and color in adult color books.
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There are a lot of good suggestions here. I do a number of them. I also continue to go to the gym two or three times a week and participate in a few groups at my church to have lunch, knit or crochet together, or discuss things. It's important to get out with "normal" people and talk and hear about other peoples lives and the issues of the day.
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Adult coloring books, puzzles and crossword.
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I do anything I can that I like when I get the moment, go outdoors when the weather permits, read a little, watch some TV or sports, meditate, breathing exercises. I have been under tremendous pressure with my Mom being bedridden at my home, my husband is ill again and may need to go to the hospital, and I went blind in one eye and had surgery for that! (We are only in our 50s!).
Since I am recovering from retinal detachment surgery, I have found those adult coloring books to be relaxing and it has helped in my eye recovery too! I can do this while listening to music or a TV program.
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I save my favorite TV shows on the dvr so when the parents are asleep i can enjoy a guilty pleasure and mentally escape for a bit
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I very much enjoy knitting and crocheting. I make Christmas presents for my closest relatives and that helps me stay connected to them. I also work on charity projects since I enjoy volunteering but I am not able to commit to anything that involves me being somewhere each week at a particular time. It gives me a sense of achievement to know that while I am spending all these hours caregiving I am also creating some beautiful and useful things.
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