Resource Guide for Family Caregivers
Self-care tips

1. Take a close look and notice who makes you feel good and who doesn’t.

Identify all those people in your life who bring you energy and make you feel good. You are probably already doing this on a subconscious level; try to make it more conscious. Record the information somewhere, like a journal or blank book (you can call it Self-care). By choosing to be with the people who bring you energy or help you feel good, you will make your life pleasanter, and chances are, you will feel better in your caregiving role. Limiting your contact with those who drain you (less frequently, less time spent, or not at all) helps too.

If the person you are caring for is difficult for you to be with, then you may need to rethink your caregiving role. Find someone to talk with, such as a social worker or counsellor who specializes in family caregiving issues, to help you sort out your feelings. It is not uncommon for families to experience long-standing relationship issues that can get in the way of the caregiving role.

2. Simply notice what brings you energy and good feelings.

This might be good music, puttering in the garden, reading a good book, having lunch with a close friend, taking a walk by the ocean, sitting in a park, or getting your hair done. Make up a list of at least 10 activities that bring you pleasure.

Record this information in your Self-Care book. By choosing to incorporate at least one of these activities everyday, you are replenishing your energy. You are becoming more purposeful in living your life as you pursue your caregiving role.

3. Balance your life

Is your life balanced? If it is, you will feel wonderful most of the time, if it isn’t you will feel increasingly stretched and unhappy. Here is a simple exercise that can help you determine how balanced your life actually is right now. Draw a circle and divide it into four equal quadrants. Name the quadrants 1. health, 2. human intimacy, 3. spirituality, and lastly, 4. work/ education. Identify all the activities that you do within each of these four parts.

Then within each of these four quadrants, highlight the activities that meant the most to you and do those activities first, virtually dropping the others. The goal here is to balance your life so that you are doing things for your health, your connection with others (intimacy), your spirituality, and your work/education. Within this goal is also the requirement to not overload yourself while choosing to do that which is the most meaningful and/or enjoyable to you.

4. Letting Go/Letting In

The reality of living well while caring for another is that you are human and you cannot do it all without lowering the quality of your life. You may need to let something go, preferably those duties/responsibilities/activities that you don’t like or don’t bring you satisfaction. One way of helping to sort out what stays and what goes in terms of your schedule or routine is to really get to know what your schedule looks like, not what you imagine it to be. Choose to reduce or even eliminate certain activities if your schedule is jam-packed.

To help you sort out your thoughts, you might find the following books useful:

Living the Simple Life by Elaine St. James,

Unclutter Your Life by Katherine Gibson,

Clutter Control by Jeff Campbell,

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson,

and Taming your Gremlin by Richard Carson.

5. Avoid destructive behaviour.

Be aware of how you are handling situations to see if you are being destructive to yourself. It is important to express your feelings instead of turning to over-eating, smoking, drinking, and so forth; in the end this does not solve the problem. If necessary, consult a professional counsellor/therapist, or your spiritual advisor to help you work through the tough times.

Seek help and build your self- esteem. Continue to pursue contacts and activities outside the home. Do what you enjoy. Meeting your own needs will satisfy you and give you additional strength and vigor in your caregiving tasks.

The checklist on the next page will help you become aware of activities that are essential for taking care of yourself, and which will then allow you to better care for your family member or friend.

Checklist for the Caregiver

      

I am getting out/exercising at least twice a week.

      

I am getting a lest seven to nine hours of restful, sound sleep per night.

      

I talk with or visit up to three friends or relative weekly.

      

I keep my annual medical and dental appointments.

      

I am eating three balanced meals a day, or four to five small nutritious meals per day.

      

My legal and financial papers, including wills, are in order and available.

      

I have kept up with my hobby or special interest.

      

I do something special for myself at least once per week.

      

I acknowledge my feelings as they come up and I take the initiative to

      

attend a support group, or speak to a friend or counsellor about them if I need to