Every year, millions of individuals become caregivers without really thinking about it or understanding the full responsibility of the role. After all, when someone we love needs assistance, it’s our job to rise to the occasion and help them as best we can – right?
“Family caregivers are a unique group of people who often jump in with both feet without realizing everything that’s involved in their new role,” says Michelle Pelham, Executive Director at Bridges® by EPOCH at Nashua, a memory care assisted living community in Nashua, NH. “While their help can extend their loved one’s independence, comfort and health, it also creates a completely new level of stress and work for the caregiver. That’s why it’s essential for caregivers to take the time to understand the situation and find fulfillment in their journey.”
Being a caregiver is incredibly rewarding, but it can also quickly become a challenging and even resented responsibility. In order to continue to do a good job and provide the best care for your loved one, you – the caregiver – need to care for yourself as well. Rather than continue to go about the daily grind as a duty, finding fulfillment will increase your happiness and make you an even better caregiver.
Enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
Being responsible for your loved one doesn’t overshadow the fact that you are an individual who deserves to enjoy the beauty and happiness of life. While there are many things you can’t change about being a caregiver, there are also countless opportunities to find joy and fulfillment each day. Perhaps that’s finding joy in seeing a family of bluebirds eating at your birdfeeder. Or laughing with your loved one over a funny cat video. Maybe it’s those moments where you and your loved one have an opportunity to share memories or make a new one. It’s important to take a moment each day to find the good in your life and in the caring for your loved one. Otherwise, you’ll start to feel bogged down, which leads to anxiety, depression and unhappiness.
Recognize what you’re learning.
As a caregiver, you’re learning something new every day (whether you want to or not). A great way of finding fulfillment is to look at these skills and realize how beneficial they can be now and in the future. Here are just a few skills that you may find yourself learning:
- Organization skills
- Time management
- Patience (always important!)
- An understanding of what’s important
- The ability to be present and live in the moment
Make time for important relationships.
Many studies have shown that the happiest people are the ones who continue to nurture quality relationships. As a caregiver, it can be easy to lose touch with the people who matter most, which can lead to isolation and loneliness. But those relationships with others can help bolster your sense of self, boost your emotional health and provide you the center you need to recalibrate and focus your efforts. So, although it may seem like work at first, don’t let those important relationships slip away. Schedule regular conversations with your friends, whether it’s a phone call or an in-person coffee date. If you’re married and have a family, remember to make time for them as well. By investing in quality relationships, you’ll find yourself feeling more fulfilled and happier – making you a better caregiver.
Make time for yourself.
It’s all too easy to lose yourself in the caregiving role, but that leads to unhappiness and unfulfillment very rapidly. Instead, take opportunities to do the things that inspire you. That will allow you to provide even better care to your loved one because you’ve taken the time to care for the most important person in your life: you!
Connect with other caregivers.
Who understands being a caregiver better than other caregivers? Having a core group you can connect with will give you a space to vent, solicit advice and information, share your own knowledge and connect with others who get you – really get you. Other caregivers can provide you a supportive shoulder, a sympathetic ear and a fast group of friends who can help bolster you through the good times and the bad.
Our brains are creatures of habit. If we continually think negative thoughts or have a pessimistic outlook, we will become negative and pessimistic without even realizing it. On the other hand, if we have happy and positive thoughts, we become a more positive person – without having to work for it. This can be hard to do, especially if you find yourself in a bit of a funk. However, just as with any hobby, it simply takes practice until it becomes natural. As you’re going about your day, listen to your internal monologue and pay attention to when you’re starting to fall into a negative pattern. When that happens, take a moment to stop, flip the script and find the good in the moment. Yes, it will feel unnatural at first, but we promise that after a short while, you’ll find yourself looking on the bright side of life more often … and that can make your entire life sunnier.
“Being a caregiver is hard – no two ways about it,” says Michelle. “But by following these tips and making the best of the situation, you’ll find yourself a much more positive, optimistic and fulfilled individual, which will make you an even better caregiver for your loved one.”
A Fulfilling Lifestyle
Bridges® by EPOCH at Nashua provides expert memory care within an assisted living environment that is comfortable, positive 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, independence and fulfilment in daily life.
Dedicated Memory Care
Our programs, care and services are all designed to celebrate our residents’ lives and support each resident’s individual strengths and abilities. No matter what stage of memory loss a resident may be experiencing, our memory care professionals work to maximize their independence in a secure, calm environment – making a truly positive impact on the lives of our residents every day.
Stunning, Purpose-Built Design
Featuring a stunning, purposeful design, Bridges® by EPOCH at Nashua is so much more than a beautiful place to live . . . It’s a community focused on enriching the lives of our residents and helping their families enjoy meaningful relationships with them. Our evidence-based design features, including soft paint colors, directional cues, aromatherapy and interactive life stations, provide a soothing and easy-to-navigate environment.
Contact us today to learn more.