Caregiving is one of the most incredible acts of love there is. Providing support, assistance, and companionship to an aging loved one is a remarkable thing to do. But, as many family caregivers will tell you, it is easy to lose sight of the “big picture” while serving as a caregiver.
Oftentimes, there are so many little things to do each day – such as attending to the care recipient’s health and safety, monitoring their finances, helping them keep up with their housekeeping, acting as their driver, and handling the unpredictable day-to-day obstacles that come up – that it’s easy to “lose sight of quality of life,” as the AARP puts it.
When you’re “in the weeds” with all the little things, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. In other words? You lose sight of the love, respect, and joy that are so essential to caregiving.
As the AARP’s Amy Goyer writes:
“Experiencing joy while caregiving isn’t always easy, but I believe it’s more than just a nice thing to do: It’s a crucial survival skill. Every moment of joy fills our tanks a bit so we can keep going. And a little bit of fun can go a long way to relieve stress, motivate, activate and connect — as well as relieve boredom.”
The Potential Pitfalls of Being a Caregiver
Family caregivers often report feeling stressed. For many caregivers, every day means being pulled in many different directions at once, as the demands of work, kids, social obligations, and providing care and support all demand attention.
As a result, many caregivers suffer from “burnout.” Over time, the responsibilities of caregiving can take a toll on your own health and wellbeing. In fact, many longtime family caregivers report that they:
- Suffer from chronic illnesses
- Have trouble sleeping
- Face depression and anxiety
- Have increased feelings of irritability or anger
- Have trouble sleeping or eating
- Lose interest in other aspects of life
- Find it harder to focus at home or at work
Caregiving is an undeniably important act – but it’s also critical that family caregivers prioritize their own health and wellness.
You’re only human, and only have so much to give. It’s important to give yourself time to rest, recharge, and refuel, while also spending time taking care of your own health care needs.
And focusing on self-care isn’t only for your benefit! Your loved ones will see the positive impacts as well. The more steps you take to stay rested, relaxed, and engaged, the higher the quality of care you can provide to your loved ones. They’ll feel the difference, for the better.
Rekindling Your Joy for Caregiving
One of the biggest steps you can take to improve your quality of life as a caregiver – and, by extension, improve the quality of life of your care recipient – is to find the joys inherent in caregiving.
As Goyer puts it:
“Notice the inherent joy in every day. Make an effort to be mindful of the joy that you might be missing when your mind is racing and your tension rages… Being creative and open to the humorous, joyful moments will help you face the tougher aspects of caregiving.”
As we noted earlier, caregiving is about love. To be a family caregiver often means spending ample quality time with a family member. You’ll be there for some tough moments, of course. But you’ll also get to witness so many warm, wonderful, memorable moments, as well. Your mom’s face lighting up with happiness over a favorite dish from their childhood. Your dad’s moment of victory as he gets in the car after a physical therapy appointment. You’re probably thinking of personal moments of your own, just reading this!
Let yourself get attuned to these joyful moments, and use them as your guiding light. Let them give you comfort in the future, something to reflect on fondly, perhaps when you’re in the middle of a rough patch.
And as Goyer writes, it’s important to prioritize “noticing the inherent joys throughout the day” while also “proactively creating joyful moments.” As a caregiver, one powerful way to benefit yourself and your loved one is to look for opportunities to spark joy, to infuse the day with warmth and happiness.
Here are a few ideas that Goyer suggests – what would you add to the list?
- Play your loved one’s favorite genre of music. Studies have shown that music is a remarkable tool for bringing on happy memories, easing pain, and energizing your older loved ones.
- Serve a favorite meal. Working on or sharing a meal together is a great way to bond with your older loved one. And if you create their favorite meal, you can help bring up happy memories and stimulate a great conversation.
- Focus on getting active. Helping your loved one get moving can make a big difference for their day-to-day. It doesn’t have to be much! Taking a stroll around the block, or visiting a local museum or garden can be a great starting point. The less sedentary you and your loved one are, the better.
- Play games. Does your loved one have a favorite card game or board game? Do they love crossword puzzles or Sudoku? Engaging in an active pastime like playing games is a great way to keep yourself and your loved one mentally sharp – while also having a blast playing and working side by side.
- Savor the big celebrations and holidays – and the little ones, too! Goyer recommends taking every opportunity to decorate for a special occasion, from the first day of spring to your loved one’s birthday. Make sure your loved one feels included and welcomed in family celebrations by making them easier and more senior-friendly.
- Go out into nature, or bring it to you. Visiting a garden or a plant nursery, bringing in flowers, taking a drive through fall foliage – all of these are great opportunities to help make life more vibrant for your aging loved one.
- Find ways to bring generations together. If it’s possible to bring grandkids and grandparents together, try to do so. These gatherings can be great sources of joy, as different generations come together to share their knowledge, insights, and favorite activities.
What Do You Do to Create Joy as a Caregiver?
Do you have a favorite treasured memory as a caregiver? Do you have tips and tricks about looking for the positive and having fun while being a caregiver? We’d love to hear from you! Be sure to drop us a line in the comments to share your stories, or join in on the conversation on Facebook.
Here at Companions for Seniors, we believe in empowering seniors to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community and nurturing meaningful relationships. Our professional Companions can help provide support and care for the aging adult in your life.
In addition to assisting with housekeeping, driving, and activities of daily living, our Companions focus on building relationships, fostering an open dialogue, celebrating ideas, and always going the extra mile. If you have a loved one who you believe might benefit from some additional care and attention, don’t hesitate to get in touch today! We’re happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction.