Being a family caregiver can be described as a journey that you and the person in your care are on together. If you could map out your caregiving experience, what would the route look like? What are the pit stops and detours you’ve had to navigate to get to this point? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way that could be helpful for the next leg of the journey? Reflecting on these questions will help you see where you are on your caregiving map and how far you’ve come.
Looking back over the last year and celebrating your wins – no matter how big or small – can help boost your outlook on the year of caregiving ahead.
As we embark upon a brand new year, here are some tips to help you embrace and cope with all of the ups and downs of being a family caregiver.
1. Celebrate your caregiving victories
Looking back over the last year and celebrating your wins – no matter how big or small – can help boost your outlook on the year of caregiving ahead. Caregiving victories could have been:
- Cooking a delicious new recipe that the person in your care enjoys
- A health care professional giving the person in your care a clean bill of health after an illness
- Spending an afternoon with friends while the person in your care is visiting with relatives
- Giving the person in your care a sponge bath without any mishaps
- Learning how to safely transfer the person in your care from their bed to a chair
As a caregiver, it can be easy to forget that you’re making a positive difference in the life of the person in your care, especially during difficult times that are fraught with emotion and distress. When the added pressures of caregiving leave you feeling bogged down by negativity and stress, you could be opening yourself up to unhealthy coping mechanisms (such as emotional over-eating, lashing out in anger, and distancing yourself from family and friends).
Turning small wins into big victories will help you acknowledge and appreciate your own caregiving contribution, both of which are an important part of maintaining your own health and well-being. Keep track of the happy moments with a journal or happiness jar and reflect on them to regain a positive perspective when times get tough.
2. Declutter your caregiving toolbox
Out with the old and in with the new! Isn’t that the expression we often hear at the start of each year? For some people, this is the perfect time to take inventory of their possessions and discard the things they no longer need or use. As a caregiver, you can apply the same principle to declutter the home of health care equipment and supplies that are no longer useful or the person in your care doesn’t need.
Items to discard are:
- Expired or unused medicine. Never give away unused prescription medicine as this could seriously harm a person. Medication should be taken to the nearest pharmacy to be appropriately and safely disposed of.
- Damaged or broken medical equipment.
- Open packages of medical care supplies such as gauze and bandages used to treat open wounds. Although the supplies may appear to be clean, they are no longer sterile – and therefore unsafe to use.
- Stretched out or frayed compression stockings. TED compression stockings need to be fitted to the person by a health care professional and have a lifecycle of about 10 washes. If the stockings no longer fit properly, they are not doing the job they were designed to do which is to prevent blood clots from forming.
- Gently used mobility aid devices that the person in your care no longer uses such as canes, walkers, crutches or wheelchairs
- Clothing and shoes that the person in your care finds difficult to put on or wear comfortably throughout the day
- Unopened packages of medical care supplies and equipment
3. Join a caregiver support group
In school we were taught the value of learning from our peers. The same concept applies to caregiving. While each caregiving situation is different, there’s so much we can learn from other caregivers.
Joining a caregiver support group or getting together with other caregivers that you know through your own network of family and friends may be a good way to share caregiving tips and strategies. You can also be a sounding board for another caregiver who just needs someone to listen. Being part of a caregiver support group can help you gain a new perspective about your caregiving role and remain socially connected with people who can empathize with and understand your situation.
If you’re more comfortable speaking to a professional one-on-one, the Elizz Caregiver Coach will be able to provide you with valuable insight about caregiving and help you come up with a customized plan of action.
At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.