By Gail Shaw, MPA – Coordinator of Training & Support

What brings you joy? Comfort? Renewal? Could it be a cup of coffee while you watch the sun come up in all its glory? Maybe it is finding time to sit down in your favorite comfy chair with that book you have meant to get read. It could be getting a massage, making a quilt, or simply taking a well-deserved nap. How about spending time with The Creator? The possibilities are endless. Everyone has something they enjoy doing that renews their mind, body, and spirit!

If you are reading this article, there is a good chance you are in the role of being a family caregiver to one living with dementia. You probably never envisioned taking on all the responsibilities that come with this role. You are finding your new job description includes being a nurse, secretary, transporter, chief financial officer, safety officer, behavior manager, activity director, and many other titles. This role adds to the jobs and duties that you may be already doing for yourself, spouse, children, grandchildren, work, and community.

When we fly, the flight attendant reviews the

ground rules before liftoff. You know the one about when the plane is in trouble, and the masks come down. They remind us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first then help others with their mask. It is good advice to follow, which I am sure is based on experience. The same idea goes for the family caregiver.

This article is to remind you, the caregiver, to take care of yourself. Caregiving is draining on the mind, body, and spirit. When you are not at your best, you will find it hard to give quality care, handle difficult situations and carry out daily activities. Prolonged stress can cause disease, depression, isolation, and, possibly, an early death. Do not neglect yourself. You are important! Your loved one needs you, wants you (and only you), and depends on you. So, how do you go about caring for yourself, the caregiver? It might be best to develop a plan! That includes the following: 

1) making sure you have and keep routine health visits,
2) incorporating how to find time for yourself,
3) finding others able to assist you in caring for the one in need,
4) educating yourself on how to be a savvier caregiver,
5) increasing your knowledge of the disease/condition
that has you in the new role,
6) changing the perception of your situation,
7) educating yourself on resources, and
8) planning for the future.

These are just a few to consider jotting down. You will probably want to add some that are specific to you and your situation. You may also want to include how to communicate your needs to family members and friends. Asking for help is not easy for some. Family and friends may be interested in helping; they do not know what you need to have done. You need to figure out what would help decrease your stress. Once that is figured out, look to see who has the skills or interest in taking on the task.

St. John’s Community Care is here to support you. We offer programs for both the family caregiver and the one living with dementia. Two of our programs, Stress-Busting and Savvy Caregiver, are meant to educate the caregiver on the importance of self-care and better understand the caregiver’s role.

The importance of self-care means making time for yourself and decreasing the stress that comes with the caregiver role. That way, you can have time for yourself. St. John’s Community Care is here for you. We encourage you to put St. John’s Community Care into your plan.