10 Resolutions Caregivers Should Make for 2017
BY RIMAS JASIN AND JUDY ZANGWILL | Every year, millions of people vow to eat healthier, exercise more, and stress less. But, too often caregivers who care for a loved one skip the New Year’s resolution and continue to forgo taking care of themselves. This year, let’s change that. Caregivers: let’s vow to take care of ourselves too.
In Manhattan alone there are an estimated 30,000 residents living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Nearly 60 percent of their caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; about 40 percent suffer from depression. One in five caregivers cut back on their own doctor visits because of their care responsibilities. And, among caregivers, 74 percent report they are “somewhat” to “very” concerned about maintaining their own health since becoming a caregiver. But a sick or stressed caregiver does no one any good.
Here are 10 practical resolutions caregivers can make in 2017 to ensure they won’t burn out and their loved one will be able to count on them all year long.
1. Resolve to do one fun activity each week with your loved one. Caregiving is often filled with stressful tasks that can put a strain on the relationship with your loved one. Take some time to enjoy your time together.
2. Resolve to stop feeling guilty about doing things for yourself. Caregivers need to take care of themselves in order to ensure that they can provide the best quality care for their loved one.
3. Resolve to learn more about your loved one’s disease. This will make it easier to plan for the long term, as well as help you to understand what your loved one is going through.
4. Resolve to break the silence. Join a support group, or seek out other caregivers. Finding others to share the experience with can make all the difference.
5. Resolve to prioritize personal hobbies and interests. Caregivers have the right to enjoy themselves apart from their loved ones. It is important that even after caregivers begin caring for their loved ones, they maintain parts of their lives that are independent of that role.
6. Resolve to express yourself. It is understandable –– and expected, quite frankly –– for caregivers to get frustrated, disappointed, and even depressed at times. When those feelings arise, let others know.
7. Resolve to listen to yourself. Caregivers deserve to take care of their own bodies and minds. When you’re healthy, you’re able to focus better on your loved one’s needs.
8. Resolve to do one thing for yourself or your loved one that you’ve been putting off. This will provide a gratifying sense of accomplishment.
9. Resolve to sleep more, when possible. Caregivers who are well rested are better able to care for their loved one.
10. Resolve to ask for help. There are organizations all across Manhattan that exist to serve caregivers. Many times, all you need to do is ask.
Rimas Jasin is executive director of Presbyterian Senior Services (2095 Broadway at W. 73rd St.; pssusa.org). Judy Zangwill is executive director of Sunnyside Community Services (43-31 39th St., Queens; scsny.org). The two groups provide comprehensive caregiver support programs in all five boroughs, including support groups, long-term financial planning, and respite care.