Caregiving can be a tough, yet amazingly rewarding role. Caregivers are a vital part of the success of brain injury survivors. Long after formal rehabilitation is over, caregivers fill roles such as nurse, advocate, coach, and therapy-aide. Often, caregivers invest so much of themselves to help their loved ones, that they forget to care of themselves. Research shows that caregivers are often under high levels of stress and are more susceptible to illness. So, in honor of National Caregivers Month, here are a few suggestions on how caregivers can take better care of themselves!
Recognize your limits since no person is truly a Superman or Superwoman. Caregivers need to be reasonable about what they can honestly do and not expect from themselves the impossible. Expecting yourself to be able to do everything and anything, at all times, is a formula for emotional and physical burnout. Keep your to-do lists short and realistic.
Build a network of family and friends who can help you out. Friends and family are often willing to help with everything from being a supportive ear in times of need to spending time with the survivor so you can attend to other important issues. Remember, it is healthy to ask for help!
Find a community through brain injury/stroke organizations and support groups. There are many great organizations such as the Brain Injury Association of America and American Stroke Association that can provide information, advice, and support throughout this journey. For caregivers or family members staying onsite at our Moody Neuro Galveston facility, we hold monthly family support groups.
Utilize respite services for a well-deserved break. Respite services allow caregivers to temporarily place the brain injury survivor in the hands of health-care professionals so the survivor can be well-taken care of while the caregiver is away. Moody Neurorehabilitation Institute’s TideWay (Galveston) and WestWay (Lubbock) facilities offer wonderful respite services.
Take care of your health because your health matters! Too often, a caregiver will ignore their own doctors’ appointments and other health issues in the name of taking care of a loved one. This puts the caregiver at risk for their own health emergencies. Caregivers need to make sure that not only is the brain injury survivor attending appointments, taking medication, etc., but that the caregivers are doing so as well. Your health includes ensuring that you get adequate sleep and nutrition. Your body needs the proper fuel and rest to thrive. Your health also includes having your emotional needs addressed, which may be through beginning your own personal counseling/psychotherapy to help cope with this journey.
Learn relaxation techniques that can help you deal with everyday stress. Simple techniques such as relaxed breathing and guided imagery can help with managing the daily stress of caregiving. Many of these techniques are a standard part of personal counseling/psychotherapy. Some techniques are on apps (often free) that you can download to your phone.
Acknowledge positive actions that you do every day. At the end of each day, identify 2-3 things that you did well, such as successfully paid the bills, cooked a good dinner, or diffused a problematic situation. Especially in times of stress, it is vital to acknowledge the positive actions you have personally taken and celebrate your good work. These positive actions do not necessarily have to differ from day to day. For instance, you may have made fantastic Italian meals multiple times in the week. Each of these meals are worthy of notice. The most important thing is to recognize your good work every single day.
Pick a hobby or interest outside of caregiving. For your emotional and physical health, it is crucial that you cultivate a personal hobby or interest. Whether it be gardening, reading, meditation, an exercise routine, or any other healthy activity, you should have a hobby or interest truly dedicated to you.
Reconnect with your spirituality and rebuild your spiritual connections. The pressure and rush of caregiving can leave spiritually-minded caregivers disconnected from this valuable resource. Difficult times are the most important times to reconnect to your spiritual foundations. This can include talking to your spiritual leader, reading spiritual books, and attending services.
Remember, to be a great caregiver for someone else, you also have to take great care of yourself!
Learn more about brain injury treatment services at Moody Neurorehabilitation Institute! Visit us at www.moodyneuro.org