Five Ways to Stay Sane While Caregiving

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If you had children, you probably thought your days of intensive caregiving were far behind you. But if you find yourself in the situation of taking care of an elderly parent in your home, you may suddenly find yourself back in to that exhausting routine of trying to balance your personal needs with those of your loved one and the needs of your immediate family. How to cope?

Here are a few simple rules that will help you keep your sanity, even in the most trying of times:

Rule #1: Find a Routine and Enforce It. Sounds too easy, doesn't it?! Like small children, we all need routines, especially as we age. Throwing off a routine can result in an off day for the caregiver AND the elderly charge. Try to develop action plans for each day of the week, then stick to them as much as possible.

Rule #2: Life's Not Perfect. Get Over It. Ouch - that's harsh! But, the sooner you realize that your life will never be the same, the better. This doesn't mean you have to give up the things you love, or the lifestyle you crave. You just need to redefine what you want from daily life, and re-evaluate your daily goals. Give yourself a break when you don't get to the dishes in the sink or manage to mow the lawn as frequently as you used to. Find ways to adjust your caregiving expectations and enjoy the waning time you have together.

Rule #3: Reach Out to Others. You found this blog, and hopefully, will find a caregiver support community here that will lift your spirits and guide you in this new endeavor. Don't stop there. Find local caregiver support groups through churches, synagogues and civic organizations. If your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer's it's even more important to find a strong support group - few others will have an inkling as to what your daily life is like!

Rule #4: Take a Break. You know the saying, "you can't care for others if you don't take care of yourself." And you probably roll your eyes and think, yeah, but who has the time? The answer is ugly. You must actively seek it out. Even if it's a quick walk around the blog or indulging in a favorite hobby for a few minutes late at night. Whatever it takes to disengage your brain from the daily grind of work, elder care and economics... schedule it into your calendar and program it into your Blackberry.

Rule #5: Don't insist on Going it Alone. Consider hiring part-time caregiving help, enlist other family members, enroll him or her in adult day care or find community-based activities to get him or her out to socialize and give yourself some respite. Don't feel bad about it - you need a break, and your loved one does too!

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--Kim Thies

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