There is a lot of good advice in this article about self-care for alzheimers caregivers. Truthfully, it applies no matter who you care for. In the coming year, I will be writing more about caregiver self-care. Today, I'm highlighting one sweet step that often gets lost in the shuffle....
Think about how many times over the last year you have taken your aging parent or spouse to a doctor's appointment? Chances are you will need all of your fingers and toes to count the visits. Now, when was the last time YOU had a check up? Caregivers often forget to schedule medical appointments for themselves because our needs get pushed way down to the bottom of our endless To-Do lists. Yet, if you don't take that time for self-care, health issues can go undiagnosed, perhaps becoming harder to treat. Even if you're younger and generally healthy, recognize that caregiving puts extra stress on both your physical and mental health. And when you are not well, it makes it all the harder to care for others.
So, are you willing to take a small sweet step towards self-care in the new year?
Call or go online today to set up an appointment with the healthcare provider of your choice. If you need 2019 healthcare coverage, please go to www.healthcare.gov to sign up right now. The Open Enrollment period closes in most states on December 15th. There's still time to pick a plan that meets your needs and find out if you qualify for premium subsidies.
What would it be like for you to be physically fit and full of vitality in the new year? What would that mean to you and your loved ones? What, if any, support do you need to take these steps with ease?
I was so touched today to see this blog posted by my dear friend Kat. She wrote about an experience we had together years ago that had lasting meaning. Truthfully, what I said her back then is something I've said many times -- to family, friends and myself. I say it a little differently to my coaching clients, but the sentiment is the same. What would you say to a friend who was facing a difficult time? Would you pile on with harsh criticism or offer them loving words of support? Caregivers often beat themselves up for mistakes they may have made or second guess difficult choices they've had to make. Caregiving can be tough. Would it be okay if got easier? What would it be like if the next time you notice that you are beating yourself up, you say "Hey, stop beating up my friend!" Remember, self-care is not optional, it's essential.
By Kat Liu
August 8, 2018
Once, while in sixth grade, I brought home a quiz in which I'd gotten the highest score in the class: a 98%. When I proudly handed the paper to my mother, she asked, “Where's the other two percent?” Mom believed that by training her children to aim for perfection we would be more successful.
Academically, her strategy worked. Unfortunately, it also resulted in neurotic offspring who tend to dwell on our failings. Over the years, I've learned that many people share these nagging feelings of constantly falling short. Most of us have also learned to censor our internalized critic in front of others.
One day, however, after I'd gotten myself into a serious jam that required a friend to help me out, my inner critic could no longer be contained. I let loose an unrelenting stream of self-reprobation, ignoring Shelley's repeated attempts to assure me things would be okay.
Finally, she yelled, “STOP BEATING UP MY FRIEND!”
Taken aback, I stopped. Then the words sank in and I laughed. Her uncharacteristic outburst and choice of words allowed me to see what I otherwise could not. I saw myself not as myself but as Shelley's friend — someone loved by someone else — and realized that I was being harsher on myself than I ever would on a friend. If a friend were in my situation, I would have genuinely seen their failings as human and focused instead on how to make things better. So why hold someone to an unforgiving standard just because that someone is me?
It sounds corny, but in that moment I finally understood the popular adage that you have to love yourself, so that even when friends aren't there to defend you, you can be your own advocate, friend, and fan.
I will always have that voice telling me, You could have done better. That's okay and maybe even beneficial, so long as it’s not the only voice we hear. Occasionally, when the first voice gets to be too much, I say, "Stop beating up my friend!" And it works.
As we extend loving kindness and compassion towards others in ever widening circles, may we also extend them to ourselves. Amen.
I'm pleased to have been invited to be the first #FamilyFirstFriday blogger for DC's Paid Family Leave Campaign. Here is my family's story and what paid family leave means to caregivers.
HONOR OUR ELDERS -- by Shelley Moskowitz, Caregiver Coach and DC Ward 4 resident
I bet when you hear about paid family leave, the first image in your mind is of excited (and probably exhausted) new parents taking time off from work to bond with their infant children. That’s great, but what about people like me? Picture a woman in her mid-fifties, no kids, living and working a time zone away from her beloved 82-year-old happily independent mother. Then the phone rings, and the rhythm of life suddenly changes. In 2011, my mom suffered a massive stroke. All I knew when I got the call was that I needed to be with her as soon as possible. Luckily, at the time I worked for a unionized national organization. I was able to make one call, write a few emails and be authorized to immediately use my paid leave. Within hours, I was able to travel to my mother’s bedside in the Intensive Care Unit and stay with her through her transition to rehab.
My siblings were not as fortunate. My sister, who coordinated mom’s day-to-day needs and medical care, worked full time at a local nonprofit. She constantly felt stressed and torn between her job and caregiving. She tried reducing to 2/3rds time, but ultimately decided to “retire early” when her hours and pay were cut, but not her workload. Our brother feared losing his job if he took too much time away, so he did what he could on weekends. Over the next three years, I was able to provide much-needed respite for my sister and spend precious, quality time with our mom before she passed away.
My caregiving experience forever changed me. I am now self-employed as a caregiver coach supporting people to care for themselves as they care for their loved ones. With 10,000 people in the U.S. turning 65 years old each day, we must create support systems that address our growing needs. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that “as baby boomers age, more older Americans will find themselves in need of care, yet there are fewer caregivers.” Paid Family Leave is one way that policy-makers can help as the Baby Boomers become an Elder Boom.
When I ask family caregivers what paid leave would mean to them, their eyes light up at the thought of being able to care for their loved ones without fear of losing their jobs or stress about how they will pay their bills. But few have that option today.
New hope has emerged with the passage of the Universal Paid Leave Act (UPLA) in Washington, DC. Thanks to broad-based grassroots support, this visionary law establishes a social insurance program that enables workers to have paid leave to care for themselves, a new child or ailing family member. Unfortunately, short-sighted business interests are working to undermine this new law before it is fully implemented by attacking its authors and campaigning against them.
Think about what you and your aging friends and family may need someday.
Thanks to paid leave, I was able to be the daughter I wanted and needed to be. Workers who care for aging parents and other loved ones already face enormous mental, physical and financial challenges. Let’s work together to lighten the load for caregivers, not make it harder.
Not a surprise, but important to acknowledge. Recognizing the symptoms is the first step towards finding a solution. "The study found that most participants got less than six hours of sleep each night, accompanied by frequent awakenings—as often as four times per hour.These kinds of disruptions can lead to chronic sleep deprivation and place caregivers at risk for depression, weight gain, heart disease, and premature death, says lead author Yu-Ping Chang, a professor in the School of Nursing at the University at Buffalo." https://www.futurity.org/dementia-caregivers-sleep-1826842/