Living Your Best Life While Caregiving

Friday, February 19, 2021

It’s easy to lose yourself in the day-to-day tasks of caregiving, literally taking it “one day at a time.” But don’t lose sight of the fact that, as you’re helping your loved one live their best life, you also deserve to live your best life.

“Caregiving is not often a short journey,” says Barbara Harrison, Executive Director of Bridges® by EPOCH at Westwood, a memory care assisted living community in Westwood, MA. “It can stretch for years – decades, even. Which means that putting your personal life on hold while caregiving is not the right thing to do.”

It may sound crazy to think about “living your best life” while you’re knee-deep in caregiving duties, but that’s exactly when it’s needed most, says Barbara. “In order to be the best caregiver possible, you need to care for yourself as well, and that means living your life to the fullest extent possible,” she says.

If you’re ready to start living your best life while caregiving, here are some tips for making that happen.

Be as obsessive about your health as your loved one’s.

As a caregiver, you are incredibly tuned in to your loved one’s needs and health situation. You know more about it than their doctors, and you know exactly what to do and when to do it in order to make sure your loved one’s health – mental, physical and emotional – is as good as possible. Be sure you’re turning that laser focus on yourself, too. Eat right, get enough exercise (and sleep), practice healthy habits and make sure that you’re doing everything necessary to keep your mental health in tip-top shape. What does that look like? Whatever you want it to look like! After all, you know yourself better than anyone. Start a healthy habit routine if you’re not doing so already, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel.

Reach out.

Caregiving can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. Reach out to friends, family and acquaintances to stay in touch and nurture those relationships. It’s easy become socially isolated and withdrawn while caregiving, because – let’s face it – staying in touch with people can be work. But staying in touch with the people we care about does wonders for our health and well-being. Think about how good you feel after sharing a laugh with a friend or hanging out with someone who really “gets” you. Human beings aren’t meant to be alone – we’re social creatures and desire to have others in our lives. So reach out. Reach out when you need help, a shoulder to lean on or simply want the comfort of being around someone else. Reach out even if you don’t feel like it – because you’ll be glad you did.

Make plans.

What do you want to accomplish this year? Is there a place you’d like to visit, someone you’d like to reconnect with or something you’d like to learn – all of the above? Don’t just sit back and think about your goals in a vague sense. Start making plans. This National Geographic article points out that planning a trip is often more enjoyable to us than actually going on the trip. In fact, just thinking about travel can be the mental boost you need. The same goes for other plans, too – learning a new language, mastering a skill or anything else. And there’s no reason why you can’t actually take action on your plans – even if it is in small steps. This is a new year, and it’s time to make things happen for you.

Nurture your relationship with your loved one.

It’s easy to disappear into the caregiver role with your loved one. But it’s important to remember that, before you became a caregiver, you were a child, spouse or friend to your loved one (and you still are). It’s essential to nurture that relationship and bring it to the forefront because that ultimately is the tie that binds. Look for ways to spend enjoyable time together as the people you are, not as the roles you currently play. This may mean asking for help from hired caregivers or friends and family to help take some of the work off your plate, but that’s okay – remember, this is part of your essential care plan (for both you and your loved one).

Ask for help.

Yes, we know you want to do everything yourself. Yes, you are a superhero – but you are not superhuman. There’s no way you can manage every aspect of caregiving and caring for yourself, and you shouldn’t have to. Part of living your best life means knowing when to ask others to lend a helping hand. It also means knowing when you may need help – professional help – to care for your mental or physical health. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious or overly stressed, speak with your doctor to see if there are any medications that might help. At the same time, reach out to agencies in your area, such as your local Area Agency on Aging, to learn about resources that might be available to help improve the quality of life for you and your loved one.

Practice gratitude.

The practice of gratitude – thinking of things you’re thankful and grateful for every day – actually can transform the way your brain works. Actively expressing and thinking about gratitude can rewire your thought processes so optimism, gratefulness and positivity become a habit over time. And we all know that grateful and positive people are generally happy people (and also have less stress, better health and a higher quality of life). A good way to start is by journaling ten things you’re grateful for every day before you go to bed. This will put you in a positive place before you drift off to sleep.

Remember, you won’t be a caregiver forever. Take time to remind yourself of who you are and what you enjoy, and you’ll find that your life becomes much fuller and more meaningful.

Exceptional Care & Fulfilling Lifestyle

Bridges® by EPOCH at Westwood provides memory care assisted living that is comfortable, positive, safe and engaging. Exclusively dedicated to caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, our community offers a wellness-focused lifestyle that promotes dignity and individual preferences. Our memory care professionals receive specialized and ongoing training designed to help residents maximize their independence in a secure, calm environment – enriching the lives of our residents every day.

Inspiring Programs for All Stages

No matter what level of care or service is needed, residents and families can rest assured that our care and life-enrichment programs address the various stages of memory decline, allowing residents the opportunity to age in place.

Dedicated Memory Care

At Bridges® by EPOCH at Westwood, our services are designed to recognize and adapt to the unique challenges and individuality of each resident, while ensuring comfort and safety. We believe in a full-service approach to care and provide a high level of personalized attention for residents in various stages of memory loss.

Contact us today to learn more.

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