“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”—Leo Buscaglia, author.
You, as the family caregiver, undoubtedly know the power that Leo Buscaglia is referring to. Your daily life is filled with those small yet powerful moments when you make your senior parent’s life better and more enjoyable on a daily basis. In the act of giving, you may not notice the subtle signs that warn you that your own mental, emotional or physical health may be on the decline.
Here are some important clues to be aware of and the action to take when you notice these subtle changes creeping in.
Problem: Exhaustion has a sneaky way of invading one’s life. It begins as a tired feeling when you wake up in the morning and concludes with the inability to remain alert throughout the day. It often leads to binge eating and drinking of caffeine at about 3 p.m. when energy levels are at their lowest, creating a vicious cycle that leads to lack of quality sleep and fatigue during the daytime.
Solution: Replace caffeine with natural energy boosters and be sure to make getting a good night’s sleep one of your top priorities. Natural energy boosters include green tea, fruit and nuts. It may take some time for your body to adjust to the steady flow of energy as compared to the quick thrust and following downward spiral that follows the intake of sugar and caffeine, but it will be well worth the transitional period.
To ensure a good night’s sleep, create a bedtime ritual that involves progressive relaxation. This may include a warm bath filled with a cup of sea salt and a few drops of your favorite essential oil, relaxing music, a good book and a cup of herbal tea. This is a great ritual to incorporate into your senior parent’s life as well. Avoid any stimulants late in the day, as well as alcohol. A daily exercise regime, even if only for 30 minutes, does wonders for a good night’s sleep.
Problem: Too much to do and too little time to do it in is a common concern among caregivers. Add to that the everyday needs and tasks involved in your nuclear family and it’s no wonder that 55 percent of caregivers report feeling overwhelmed.
Solution: Prioritize and time management are your two best friends when it comes to feeling in control of the daily tasks that need to be completed. Make a list and check it twice. This list includes the daily tasks and who is to fulfill them. If the only person on this list is you, it’s time to make a new one.
Reach out to family, friends, community members and your parent’s neighbors. You’ll be surprised at how many people are happy to lend a hand. They may not have a whole day to offer, but they are more than happy to provide transportation, a shared meal or complete your parent’s grocery shopping at the same time they are doing their own.
A senior care provider can assist with the daily tasks as well as provide transportation, run errands and accompany your parent on social outings, making sure they stay engaged while you take the time to recharge and refresh.