4 New Year’s Resolutions for Caregivers to Help Avoid Caregiver Stress

Family caregiver hugging senior parent talking about her new years resolutions to reduce caregiver stressAs you approach a new year, look back and reflect on how the past year went – and plan for the year ahead. What do you want for the future? How can you grow and change? Some of these ideas may be ambitious, while others may be simple. If you’ve been providing care for your aging parent, you’ve likely experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed at times – and will be again. Taking the steps to make even the smallest improvements to help you avoid caregiver stress and burnout can make a world of difference. Take time after this busy holiday season to set some promises to yourself to help improve your self-care. Here are four new year’s resolutions to help get you started.  

1. I will go to the gym.

One of the oldest resolution in the book, but the new year is a great time to get in shape. As a caregiver, getting exercise takes on even greater importance.

Caregivers often forget about their own care, in deference to their loved ones. They’ll skip their own exercise routine or class to ensure their parent gets to therapy. They pass on making themselves healthy meals so they have time to make a meal to help build their parent’s mild appetite and healthy enough to comply with their various medical needs. They’ll skip a nice warm bath or a manicure to give their loved one a sponge bath.

Getting into a regular gym schedule, even if it’s only a couple of times a week, is an act of self-love, a commitment to a chunk of time that’s just for you, a confirmation that you matter, too — but not a selfish one. Exercise is also good for your state of mind, which makes you a stronger and more resilient caretaker.

2. I will eat better.

As a caregiver, your own needs often go out the window in favor of your aging parent’s needs.

You’re cooking for them, but eating a fast food dinner over the kitchen sink in record time. It may be quick and easy, but it won’t help in the long run. The best way to keep up with the busy schedule of a caregiver is to keep yourself in good physical and mental shape. Eat balanced meals with a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other heart-healthy foods. Take the time to sit down at the table with a real plate and relax while eating, it’ll keep you running longer.

3. I will ask for help.

Asking your family members or others for help with caregiving for your loved one can be difficult at times. You may feel like you’re providing the best possible care but it takes a strong person to recognize their limits and take the time to prevent caregiver stress or burnout.

Talk with your family members about how they can help with some caregiving activities such as getting the groceries or offering to help with transportation to a medical appointment. You can also look into local organizations such as Meals on Wheels or adult day care. A respite stay, which is a short term stay at an assisted living community, will provide you with a break from caregiving.

4. I won’t feel guilty.

Making the commitment as a caregiver to give yourself time for your own self-care can bring on the feeling of guilt. Your parents did a lot for you bringing you up, and you want to repay the favor by being there for them at every moment. But remember that even your parents had help: friends and family to watch you on occasion, paid babysitters, school, camp.

By taking regular breaks from caregiving, it can help you avoid caregiver stress and burnout – without feeling guilty. So when you are take the time you need and deserve, remember that it will help you provide better care for your loved one.

If you can include some of these new year’s resolutions into your daily routine as a caregiver, you’ll set up yourself for a happier and more fulfilling year.

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