I am a recovering caregiver. I was my mom’s caregiver for nearly 8 years, including hospice in my home. At the time, I had three young teenagers, a husband who worked midnights and a job where I worked out of my home office. I had the worst of both worlds – I never got to leave! I had no training, no experience with eldercare, dementia or end of life care. All I knew was that I loved my mother.
Gaining a Superpower
I learned so much and discovered resources (often too late) that I decided that my mission in life was to help other caregivers. I became a Caregiver Champion. I began speaking to groups, telling stories to help caregivers understand that self-care is not selfish, it’s survival. I wrote the book I wish I’d had, called The Caregiver Coffeebreak. My message is that humor is your superpower when it comes to surviving and thriving as a caregiver. If you can find a way to laugh at least once a day you will feel better physically, emotionally and you will be a better caregiver. My big lesson is to “Take a Break, Before You Break”.
Breeda’s Top Five Secrets to Caregiver Sanity
- Carve out small chunks of time each day just for you, to take a break. Five minutes to savor a warm cup of tea or coffee. 15 minutes for a short walk in your neighborhood. It will make a huge difference.
- Stay connected to your friends. Make a phone call, send an email, write a handwritten note (shocking!). Be pro-active, reach out. Your friends miss you but might not want to bother you.
- Find Some Funny. Whether it’s a funny meme on social media, an episode of a favorite TV show, a youtube video of a great comedy act, or a good chuckle at something your loved one said or did – focus on it and seek it out.
- Sleep. When you (finally) go to bed, fill your mind with three things that either went better than you expected or not as bad as you feared. Crowding out worry with these positive thoughts will help you fall asleep.
- Lower Your Standards. You only have limited time and even more, limited energy. Your home won’t fall apart if it isn’t sparkling. Sometimes we won’t accept help because they won’t do it our way, or it seems easier just to do it ourselves. Let others help. Let it go.
So many audience members came up to me after a presentation saying that they wish their sister could have attended to hear me, but that she couldn’t leave their mom. I realized that I could use the power of the internet to reach caregivers at home and provide them with inspiration, humor, resources and the chance to connect with other caregivers. That’s how the Caregiver Clubhouse was born. The Caregiver Clubhouse is a private group – a soft spot for caregivers to connect with each other, receive helpful and entertaining videos, playsheets (we don’t need worksheets!) and be inspired. Membership will open up on July 1 and the Clubhouse will open on August 10. You can find out all the details on my website – BreedaMiller.com. or my Facebook page, The Caregiver Coffeebreak.
At The End of the Day
Being a caregiver is a stressful role. If you don’t take care of yourself, it will be much more difficult, and your health will suffer. You will also be cranky. If you feel guilty taking time to do things for yourself, just remember that you will be better able to care for your loved one when you are your best self. Remember to “Take a Break, Before you Break”.
Take care – of yourself!