Ten things every family caregiver needs


by Joy Loverde

We are often so busy with our caregiving responsibilities that we forget to take good care of our own fundamental peace of mind. Here are ten things I believe every family caregiver needs:

  1. Trusting friend.  We all need someone (other than a family member who might throw our words back in our face) to tell the truth to about our caregiving experiences. Someone who will listen as we express what’s really on our mind and not judge us.
  2. Cushy Chair. A soft, comfortable chair to call our own and a place to retreat when we’ve have had enough of everything and everybody.
  3. A spiritual life. There are plenty of situations in the caregiving process when the rug feels like it is being pulled out from under us and there is no earthly explanation for what is happening. God is not to blame. At times like this it helps to have someone lead us to a prayer life and guide us along the way.
  4. A park bench. Get out of the house and smell the fresh air. Listen to the chirping birds. Look for squirrels gathering nuts. Watch the dogs romp and catch Frisbees. That’s it. No agenda. Just be in nature.
  5. Cell phone email access. Since the majority of us with elderly loved ones who rely on us sleep with our cell phones next to our nightstand “in case anything happens,” having email access on our phone offers even more peace of mind, especially in an emergency or in the middle of the night when sleep evades us.
  6. A window that lets the sunshine in. There’s something about standing near a window, and feeling the heat of the sun, especially in the winter. It feels good. It feels calming. And seeing the sun in the winter offers hope of flowers that bloom in the spring.
  7. Music. Music to sing to. Music to dance alone to. Music to cry to. Music to make love to. Music to exercise to. Music that reminds us we are so loved.
  8. Mindless activities. Solitaire card game. Jigsaw puzzle. Color-by-numbers. Not everything we family caregivers do has to be important. We’re allowed to goof off.
  9. Sleep. Hire someone to take over once a week so you catch a nap during the day or experience eight hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. If anyone ever asks if they can help you, and you can’t think of anything off hand, keep this one in mind.
  10. A positive outlook. Do you know someone who is upbeat and positive and has a way to make you smile? Pick up the phone (no emails) and tell your story; then listen to the way he or she can turn a negative situation into a positive one.

Now it’s your turn. What do you feel you can’t live without to have a more balanced life when caring for aging parents, spouses and other loved ones? Please feel free to add to this list via the comments below.