In my workshops, I preach that self-care for caregivers is as important as the care of the patient. Dementia caregivers fall into what I call Caregiver Mentality in which they become so focused on caring for their loved one that they forget to care for themselves. (fFor a more thorough discussion of Caregiver Mentality, go to the May 29, 2010 post at http://www.blueprintforcaregiving.blogspot.com.) The results can be disastrous—serious illness, even death before the death of the patient. Caregivers need to ask themselves: “If I become ill, who will care for my loved one?”
With that in mind, there are a lot of little things that caregivers can do for themselves to engage in that self-care. Exercise, relaxation through prayer and meditation, eating well, and getting enough sleep are on the top of the list. Here are some ideas for more “good things” to do for yourself culled from the pages of Martha Stewart Living Magazine:
• Need to give your self-esteem a boost? Just five minutes of activity in the open air such as walking, cycling or gardening will do just that according to research from the University of Sussex, England.
• Plums may be even better than blueberries in supplying the antioxidants you particularly need when you’re living with caregiving stress. Blueberries were supposedly the top of the heap for antioxidants (vitamins A, C, and E to strengthen your body’s immune system). But new research from Texas A&M University shows that plums may have more antioxidants than blueberries. They certainly have more than other stone fruits such as apricots, peaches or nectarines.
• Drinking one-and-a-half to three glasses of red wine every day not only keeps a woman’s heart healthy, it also may prevent excess weight gain, according to a 13-year study of 20,000 women undertaken at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. As a red-wine lover let me just say, “Yea!”
• Did you know that the scent of lavender will help you relax to sleep? More importantly, did you know that the scent of jasmine may be even more effective in inducing sleep? Keep some—or both—by your beside.
• Pick quality over a cheap fix when you’re contemplating a food treat. The way we feel psychologically after we eat a treat is as important as how we feel physically says Jeanette Broneé, founder of Path for Life, a wellness center in New York City. She advocates eating one piece of really good dark chocolate if you crave a treat, instead of “junky candy.” You’ll feel better about yourself if you give yourself the quality treat.
Self-care is really just a matter of extending the compassion you are giving to your loved one to yourself. These little acts of self-kindness are good for you, and can be shared with your loved one, too.
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