Practicing Self-Care - Guideline 4
Professors covered the topics of self-care and burnout in graduate school forty years ago. I’ve experienced burnout, stopped counseling clients to recover my balance, gained a greater appreciation for self-care, and learned survival tools.
So, I was well prepared to care for myself while caring for Dan. Right???? Not really. My plan was lacking when it came to caring for and living with a loved one.
As one website says
Ironically when you genuinely care for yourself, exercising all the discipline required, you are in a much stronger place to give of yourself to those around you. You will be a happier parent, a more grateful spouse, or a fully engaged colleague. Those who take care of themselves have the energy to care for others because that caregiving doesn’t come at their own expense.
When Dan began experiencing memory loss, I thought of myself as a care partner. I continued going out with friends occasionally, worked less, and cut back on my hobbies while supporting him. That approach was adequate for a while - until it wasn’t. As you might assume, over time, his needs became more demanding.
Management strategies that worked - sometimes
Ignore his nasty words and rants – for the most part.
Practice compassion. I can only imagine how scary and fearful life was for Dan
:not remembering from one minute to the next, not knowing where things were, and forgetting how to do tasks he’d previously done with ease.
Develop a support system of family and professionals.
Write in my journal daily.
Seek additional strategies and techniques to manage his behaviors and my emotions more effectively.
At The Memory Care Facility
When Dan was at the facility, he was safe - I no longer worried about him running away or starting a fire.
Self-care included talking to him as often as possible, meeting with a coach, and doing little things for myself - like having flowers in the house and taking walks.
Yet, the stress and demands remained high. Dan was there during the pandemic, so we could only visit him every few weeks - outdoors and wearing masks. I went out with friends but kept waiting for phone calls from him or the facility staff - on call 24/7 just in case.
Today, taking care of myself mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally is a priority. But there is more to do - especially with the emotional component.
I continue writing in my journal and articles for the newsletter. These are tangible ways for me to heal. I don’t push myself to get over the grief or move on. Some days are better than others.
Be more assertive with Dan and the professionals.
Seek help sooner. Perhaps attend a support group.
Put respite care in place to give me breaks. Dan refused to have strangers in his home or to visit an adult daycare center. There had to have been a way.
Read more about the disease and explore additional ways to manage challenging situations.
Take better care of myself from the beginning - prepare for the demands and build the skills to manage the stress.
Guideline 5 discusses adopting supportive habits.
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