A Message of Love and Empathy for Caregivers
By Candice Freese, Valley VNA Wellness Coordinator

February is well known in the medical community as Heart Month, a time when people are reminded to think about their cardiovascular health and how to improve it. It seems crazy, right? That we need to be told that our heart is important and needs our attention?

Similarly, our true heart (the caring soulful side of our personhood) needs to be treated gently. Caregivers, whether they tend to toddlers, teens, or elders, have some of the most generous hearts in our families and communities. Some caregivers give direct care through feeding, dressing, and toileting. Some may be in charge of a senior’s finances, medical appointments, and keeping extended family updated. If you could support them and ease their weariness, what would you say? How about this:

Resolve not to be perfect.

Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up or blame yourself when things go less that perfectly. Do you realize how awesome you are to step up to the plate and care for someone who needs you? When you forgive yourself for your missteps it will be easier for you to learn from them.

And remember to be patient with your lack of patience. There will be times when you just lose your cool. Vent to friends or empathetic family members, cry it out in the shower, or go for a walk or a sweaty workout. It feels better when you get the sad out of you.

Another great piece of advice—don’t force it. Step back when you come to a point where you need to use excessive force (physical or emotional) to make something happen. Chances are, it’s just not worth it at that moment. Drop it for the time being and step away. That which makes you a beautifully caring person also makes you vulnerable to feeling overwhelmed. It’s all part of the package.

Refill your well.

A dry well quenches no thirst. Have you ever joked with your spouse that the office (or mill or school or clinic) will run for a day or two without him or her? It’s true. Take time to make yourself a priority, if even for an appointment at the nail salon or a long leisurely trip around Target. You simply need and deserve to get away and recharge, stretch your muscles, and enjoy the wider world. It will help you and the people who depend on you. Really—go ahead and choose the hot pink. Shake things up a bit and laugh while you do it.

Don’t block the love train.

It can be selfish to try and do everything yourself. So many people would be tickled to help with a ride to an appointment, a hot meal, or a night of sitting with your loved one while you go out to dinner. They just need to be asked. It’s the most glorious way to spread love in your circle of friends. Move that train on down the tracks and ask for help.

 Make a plan for the future.

There may come a time when you’re no longer able to provide care. It makes a lot of sense to plan ahead and ask about getting assistance with in-home care or an alternative residential care setting. You’ll feel like a worry has been lifted and your loved one will not be left in the lurch when circumstances change.

Are you discombobulated by changes in your loved one’s ability to care for himself? Are you looking for help to make 2017 as happy and healthy as possible? The people of Valley VNA are experts in helping identify services in the community that will help all of us age well with dignity and purpose. Call (920) 727-5555 and we’ll connect you with a helpful, knowledgeable person to help address your concerns.