If you are a dementia or Alzheimers caregiver you know the days are long and the challenges many. From sunup to sundown, there is always something to do or watch out for! But you will be no good to your loved one if you don't practice some self care and get a wee bit of relief. Here are 23 ways to fight caregiver burnout!
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Just so you know, I understand that some of these may work for you and some may not. Some of us can still get time away for a while some of us are stuck at home all day everyday. Hopefully this is a nice mix of things that are free and expensive, easy and hard, but all are FUN and can help make your life a little better!
Cruising around the self care articles I saw a whole bunch of “drink more waters” and “take time for yourselfs” but that doesn't work when you are a caregiver. These are concrete things you can do (with a little bit of snark thrown in along the way!)
1. Get some flowers
It is so funny being a caregiver, at first I thought “get a plant”, but I don't need ONE MORE THING to take care of so fresh flowers it is. I don't know why they make me so happy, but they are super pretty and make me smile every time I walk by them!
2. Read a novel
This is not “read about dementia”, this one is read a novel. Could be the latest Nora Roberts bodice ripper, a fun cozy mystery from Ellery Adams or even a thrilling spy novel from Robert Ludlum! You can get them to download on your iPad or Kindle or use this free library app!
3. Take a walk
I don't know I could manage the dress in a field of wildflowers (most days I am just happy if I get a shower myself), but the thought is a good one! A quick walk around the block (alone) can sometimes make that last blowup feel a little less dire! If you are worried about wandering, take it back and forth in front of your house (the neighbors will think you are weird but who cares!)
4. Buy yourself a really cool water bottle
You know that self care means drinking water, but honestly, until I got a cute one that kept my ice cubes cold a long time, I was not good at it! This is the EXACT llama water bottle I have so I can vouch for it. That said, it takes those skinny ice cubes that come from a fridgie ice maker. If you have ice cube trays then probably you want to get one with a wider top!
5. Make yourself a decadent dessert
Okay, this one may be a little mean and selfish, but I am okay with that! I have a mother in law who always asks, “do you have anything sweet” and a son who knows EVERYTHING that is in the pantry so making a fun little dip like this and hiding it in a boring margarine container seems like the perfect solution! get the recipe at Food Folks and Fun
6. Noise cancelling headphones
Sometimes you get sick of answering the same questions over and over again! I know that most of the time Mom is just talking to hear herself speak so I can duck “away” and get a few minutes of peace using noise cancelling headphones. I would love to get those big giant ones that block the world out, but these little discrete ones don't make it so obvious that I am ignoring everyone when I listen to my Audible books!
7. Do a craft
Working with you hands is a great way to make some time for yourself. If you are like me, you already have some craft supplies lying around but never take the time to make anything! Well pull them out the drawers and boxes and get to getting. It doesn't matter if you make beautiful art, just make some time for you!
8. Stock up on essential oils
I got into essential oils before Mom moved in and they have been SO MUCH help to me in so many ways. I have creaky joints from doing stuff for mom, acne from menopause and dirty counters from all of them! There are so many ways to use them in your caregiving life!
9. Take a nap
Caring for a dementia loved one is much like having a newborn or toddler! You spend so much time keeping them safe that you may not be getting enough sleep yourself. But is so easy to think, “she is napping now, I can get so much done”. That is wrong thought… take a nap whenever you can! Recharging your batteries is SO important and honestly, everything else will wait! As Rachel Hollis says in Girl Wash Your Face… are you alive? are they alive? then you are doing GREAT!
10. Download a mediation app and spend 5 minutes mediating
I have heard really good things about the Calm app. Since I am a sandwich caregiver, I tend to do my meditating in the bathroom after my morning shower before everyone gets up!
11. Watch cute animal videos on YouTube
Since so many of us belong to Alzheimers and dementia Facebook groups, watching funny videos there can lead us down a rabbit hole of more problems! Get away and watch some cute animals!
12. Get a security camera
Caring for your loved one means being hyper vigilant and when you don't hear anything, it could mean a wee bit of downtime OR that they are filling a toilet with toilet paper and you will have to call a plumber in a couple of hours. Having a video baby monitor lets you “pop in” and check without disturbing your loved one if they live with you. If your loved one lives alone or away from you, this kind of camera can literally be a life saver… we had this for Mom before she moved in. PLUS, if you can see them you can go about your business without worrying!
13. Dream on Pinterest
As much as this seems like it will never end, someday you will get your life back and when that time comes, you want to be READY! Set up some Pinterest boards and start dreaming of what you will do, where you will go and all the fun things that you will see later! I have boards full of home decorating that I can do after my “bull in a china shop” boy grows up, recipe boards of things that are not boring and travel destinations that I will visit once everyone is out of the house!
14. Go to church or read your bible
If you are spiritual then for sure you need to turn to God for some help and solace! The added benefit is that many churches will have care for your loved one during the service or even home visitors that will come and sit with them if you need a break! Being a caregiver can be super lonely and you can forget that there are people out there who want to help!
15. Get a new bag
Okay, maybe this one is just me, but a new pocketbook or “carry all” bag makes me super happy. I have been looking at some since I have maxed out my purse with things that I “have” to have on trips like bandaids and antiseptic for kids and a change of clothes and wipes in case mom has an accident. Pro tip… use a diaper bag! They have tons of pockets and aren't as hideously ugly as they used to be!
16. Binge a Netflix show
This is a fun one… find a Netflix, HBO or Food Network TV show to binge! First off, I have found that once Mom gets to “know” the people the questions slow down and also when you are watching a recorded program you don't have to worry that you will miss something if a catastrophe happens (and doesn't something ALWAYS happen when you sit down)!
17. Take a bath (with wine if needed)
I am not a bath girl, being a shower at 5 am when I can be alone kind of gal, but I hear that a bath is decadent to some people! Get yourself a glass of wine, some cool bath bombs and tuck in for a soak!
18. Video call a friend
If you haven't been keeping up with technology (because you are a little busy) then you may not know about Skype or Zoom which are free video calling services. You just pop open your computer or phone and video chat with a friend. I find that my family seems to think these are “more important” than just a phone call and leave me alone!
19. Take an online class!
There are a couple of places that I love taking online classes from! The great thing about these are 1. I can do them from home anytime and 2. if (when) you get interrupted you can just hit pause and then go back to play anytime. BONUS… they have free versions that you can try out!
- Skillshare – A little bit of everything!
- Craftsy Unlimited – Craft Classes
- CreativeLive – Great creative business classes
20. Hire a home health aide (get respite care)
I KNOW, we all feel like we should be wonder woman and do it all by ourselves, but there are times when we just have to admit that we need help with the care of our loved ones. Maybe they are getting too heavy to lift or refuse to take a shower. Whatever, it is worth contacting a home health care agency in your area to get help… for you, not them!
21. Go out with a friend for coffee
Sometimes it seems like too much effort to get up, dressed, showered and out the door ourselves when we are so darn tired, but it is SO WORTH IT! Do it now, call up a friend and make a date to visit with a friend outside the house. If you can't get out at all, then invite someone over!
22. Whatever you like doing…
Reading all of these you might have thought, “why didn't she include this or that”… well, then THAT is what you should do! Don't rely on this list, just do whatever you want to do.. go for it girl!
23. Beg for help!
Last but not least, you may be reading all of this and having some caregiver resentment about all the things you can't do. If you are truly housebound and stuck, then I want you to beg for help! Call local agencies and see if you can get some in home help. Call a friend or family member to take over for a couple of hours. Call your priest or pastor and ask if anyone can come sit with your loved one. Join a local caregiver group and reach out for help, trading “babysitting” like people do with toddlers.
I KNOW it can feel like this will last forever and there is NOTHING you can do, but if you are in that state you are probably depressed and need to do something to knock yourself out of it! GET HELP!
Caregiver Burnout Wrapup
Well that was super fun to do! I added a couple of thing to my Pinterest boards that I will have to get (waxed cloth bag I am looking at you!) PLEASE make sure you taking care of yourself, enjoying at least a few of life's little pleasures and not just suffering the whole time.
You CAN do things just for you…. pick couple and start planning them today!