6 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers| Guest Blogger Cindy Kolbe

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on November 30, 2017 # Caregiving

Caregiving is handed down through our heritage and woven through our genetics and instincts. We take care of others through different stages of life, a meaningful expression of love for family and friends, young and old. I sought out that role as a mom of three little ones. However, I never expected to be a full-time caregiver for one of my teenaged children.

“Life can change in a moment” is a common phrase, yet only some of us experience tragic events that alter everything. My moment arrived in the last dark minutes of a chilly spring day when I fell asleep at the wheel and nearly lost my youngest daughter, Beth. She survived with a C6-7 spinal cord injury. I quit my job at a state institution for a new one as a full-time personal care assistant.

Beth took on the world with stubborn teenage determination. She led the way in her new wheelchair while I struggled to keep up, saddled with guilt, anxiety and depression. At the time, I needed a caregiver, too.

Who takes care of the caregiver? You guessed it. On top of caregiving—always a challenge—caregivers need to fend for themselves. But how? The responsibility of the job is often demanding, time-intensive, exhausting, and uncertain. Beth’s first days back at home after her injury, I couldn’t sleep at night, afraid of losing her. Every morning, I worried if the day would end in the hospital. Bone-tired and deeply sad, I joined the ranks of caregivers who neglect themselves, particularly through the toughest times.

I learned the hard way that self-care for caregivers is a necessity, not an option. I hope your journey will be better with the following strategies. Give yourself the best gift: self-care!

6 Tips for Caregivers:

1) #BeBold

Develop assertiveness to better represent yourself, and to be a strong advocate for others. #UseYourVoice

2) #Connect

Build a partnership with the person you are assisting based on mutual respect. Try to understand their perspective. #Empathy

3) #Prioritize

Decide what matters most. Not everything is important. #KeepItSimple

4) #Relax

Do gentle stretching and deep breathing several times a day. Look for and appreciate the good things. #KeepItSimple

5) #SOS

Ask for help when you need it. (From doctors, too!) With family and friends, use tact and be specific, whether it’s changing sheets, picking up groceries, a meal out, babysitting, or a much-needed foot rub. #BeGrateful

6) #Me-Time

Carve out a little time for a favorite hobby or book. At the rehab hospital after Beth’s injury, we read a new Harry Potter book out loud to each other in the evenings. Create bright spots on difficult days. #SmallGreatThings

Cindy Kolbe is a Peer Mentor for the Reeve Foundation. She shares her adventures with Beth on her Struggling with Serendipity blog at strugglingwithserendipity.com/blog and on her new Struggling with Serendipity Facebook Page at facebook.com/strugglingwithserendipity.