The end of one year and the start of another can be hectic, especially for family caregivers. This time of year means holiday celebrations to plan for, family gatherings to attend, elaborate meals to cook, gifts to buy, and so much more.
It’s easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle of the season. But, if you can, it’s also good to take some time at this time of year to take stock and really think about the past, present, and future.
The start of a new year is a great opportunity to take some time to yourself. It’s a chance to reflect back on the year that was – and look ahead to the year you hope to have.
To help set their minds at ease and give their year some structure, many people think up one or more New Year’s resolutions. You may also think of New Year’s resolutions as the goals and aspirations you hope to accomplish in the coming months.
For many people, these resolutions are about health – their plan is to eat better, or to exercise more. For others, New Year’s resolutions are about enriching their lives – by reading more, traveling more, entertaining more.
These are all great goals, to be sure! There’s no wrong way to set about making progress and taking positive steps forward at the start of a new year.
New Year’s resolutions should be as unique and as personal as the lives they touch. This goes for family caregivers, as well. The start of a new year is a great chance for caregivers to hit refresh, and rethink their current approach to providing care and support to the important people in their life.
There’s no shortage of ways for family caregivers to make beneficial changes, and create a positive, lasting impact. For some caregivers, this may mean rethinking their plan for care in the new year. For others, it may mean focusing inward, and taking steps to improve their own health and wellbeing.
Looking for some inspiration as we move toward the start of an exciting new year? Here are five ideas for New Year’s resolutions that may help to inspire and invigorate family caregivers in the year ahead:
1.) Protect Your Health
As a caregiver, it’s important to watch out for your own health and wellness. But, as so many caregivers can tell you, it’s also easy to prioritize everyone else’s needs above your own, and let your own health slip as you care for others. This is especially true for members of the Sandwich Generation, tasked with caring for their own children and their aging parents at the same time.
Caregivers often fall ill, or suffer negative health effects as a result of giving and giving, and not taking any time to protect their own health.
This year, it may benefit you, and those you love, if you refocus on your own health goals. Make your health a priority this year. Some ideas to consider may include:
- Exercising regularly
- Getting sufficient sleep every night
- Eating more nutritious meals
- Staying well hydrated during the day
- Keeping up with personal doctor’s appointments
- Cutting back on unhealthy habits, like smoking cigarettes or drinking to excess
2.) Make Time for Yourself
If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, then you may have heard a pilot or flight attendant give safety instructions. One instruction that always comes up is to make sure that you have your own oxygen mask secured, before helping others.
The idea is that you’ll be better equipped to help the other travelers in your row if you take the time to make sure you’re safe and secure. Once you’ve met your own needs, you can better focus on serving the needs of others who also need help.
The same principle is useful to consider when it comes to caregiving. Many family caregivers suffer burnout over time. They spend so much time focusing on others that they let their own needs slip away – and as a result, they suffer from negative health effects, both physical and mental. Caregivers often tend to suffer from depression and anxiety. Over time, many caregivers start to display negative symptoms, such as irritability, restlessness, inability to sleep, and even thoughts of self-harm.
This year, it may benefit both you and the people you care for if you make it a goal to put yourself first sometimes. There’s no harm in giving yourself time off; in fact, it’s an essential part of caregiving. You can take steps both large and small to make yourself a priority. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Keep up with social gatherings, such as church events, community events, volunteer organizations, and so on
- Pick up a new hobby or revisit an old one – from painting to sculpting to bird watching, just make sure it’s something that has nothing to do with caregiving
- Take time to read a great book, listen to an audiobook, or go to the movies
- Practice meditation for a few minutes a day
- Take a vacation this year
3.) Get Organized
The start of a new year is a wonderful opportunity to get your thoughts together. And, at the same time? The beginning of the year is also an excellent time to collect and organize important documents, paperwork, and schedules that you may need in the months ahead.
At the start of the New Year, plan for the future. Think about what you may need to take care of in the year ahead, and start taking the steps it may take to get everything in place. For example, you may consider asking yourself:
- “Do I know where all of my parents’ most important paperwork is?”
- “Am I familiar with my older loved ones’ health insurance, life insurance, and long-term care insurance policies?”
- “Does my aging family member have a living will? Estate planning documents?”
- “Is everyone on my family caregiving team up to speed on any recent changes or developments in my loved one’s life?”
- “Are there any parts of the caregiving process that I can automate or streamline this year?”
- “Is there an easier way to communicate and coordinate with my loved one’s caregiving team?”
4.) Refresh Your Mindset
As a caregiver, it’s easy to fall into patterns and habits. Sometimes, having habits can be a good thing, of course! But it’s also easy for a routine to become a rut. If you’re feeling stuck in one way of behaving or thinking, the New Year might be a great time to focus on adjusting your mindset.
There are all sorts of positive adjustments you can make to help create welcome changes in the New Year. Sometimes, a little shift in your thinking can lead to all sorts of positive effects elsewhere in your life. Here are a few simple tricks and tips that may benefit family caregivers:
- Give yourself permission to laugh. Humor can be a huge benefit to caregivers. If possible, try to find ways to find the positive side of a situation, and find ways to get enjoyment out of caregiving. Is there a hobby or activity you and your older loved one can do together? A subject of conversation that will keep you both entertained?
- Practice gratitude. Give thanks for the big and little things in your life, including getting the opportunity to spend time with your aging loved ones. It can be productive to shift from thinking of things as obstacles or burdens, to thinking of them as opportunities for growth and learning.
- Think of how you can help your loved one reclaim their independence. Instead of emphasizing all the things you have to do for your care recipient, consider thinking in terms of how you can assist them in doing things for themselves. This can be a very liberating way of thinking, for yourself and your loved one.
- Give yourself some breathing room. By this, we mean that you should cut yourself some slack. It’s not realistic, or healthy, to always demand perfection from yourself. Recognize that sometimes you’ll make mistakes or fall short, and that’s OK. Aging Care encourages caregivers to remember the mantra: “When I feel I am imperfect, I will remember that guilt is not an option as long as I know I did the best I could, given the circumstances.”
5.) Ask for Help When You Need It
Another crucial mindset adjustment to make in the New Year? Remember, when it comes to caregiving, you do not have to go it alone. It’s not a sign of weakness or failure to ask for help; instead, it’s an incredibly brave act, and one that can truly benefit you and your loved one, in countless ways.
Give yourself permission to take a break, and bolster your peace of mind, by delegating when you can. For example, if your loved one has other friends and family members living nearby, consider bringing them onto the caregiving team, to assist however they can.
Remember too that there are plenty of services that can assist you in helping to meet some of your loved one’s needs. For example, grocery delivery can help take away the pressure of having to go out and shop. Medical professionals who specialize in in-home visits can help bring service to your senior, instead of the other way around.
And finally, a new year may be the perfect moment to look into respite care and home care services. With this arrangement, you can bring on a professionally trained caregiver or companion to provide support and attention to your loved one in the comfort and security of their own home. This warm, caring professional can be there for your care recipient when you can’t, making sure they have the care they need while also giving you back time for the other important things in your life.
Companions for Seniors Can Help You Make the Most of the New Year
Looking for companionship and non-medical home care services in the Chicagoland area? Companions for Seniors would be happy to help.
Our mission is to provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for a family caregiver who might need some support.
Our companions help stimulate our clients physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, empowering them to live an active and enriched lifestyle. We’re locally owned in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs.
If you have any questions about finding the right care for your loved one – or taking care of yourself as a family caregiver – we’d love to help out. Drop us a line today to get the conversation started!