Have you created yours?
When you truly understand that you are the most important person in this caregiving scenario, then creating a care plan for yourself is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It requires self-awareness, intentionality and the willingness to adapt it as you go along.
The goal of your care plan is to write down what and WHO adds to your mental, physical and emotional health. As Denise Brown from The Caregiving Years Training Academy says, “You have a responsibility to yourself to keep a life during caregiving.”
You can start by asking these questions:
- What brought me joy as a child?
We get so lost in all the things we must do for the person with the memory impairment that we lose ourselves. Truthfully, the people who struggle the most after caregiving ends are those who did not keep a life for themselves. So, what can you do about it?
Create a list of things you love or loved to do, or always wanted to try. Don’t edit yourself. If you loved to swing on a swing, window shop, go swimming or sit outside under a tree and read, then put it down on the list. Especially, if you believe you have no time for any of this stuff, then putting it down on paper is even more important. Making time for what you love is what setting boundaries and saying yes to help are for.
If there are things on this list you used to do with the person living with dementia, it is OK to still do them by yourself or with someone else. It is not a betrayal of them or your relationship.
“We lose the joy in simple things as we grow into adulthood and there is no better time to get it back. If you start your care plan just by writing down these ideas, it frees you up to add things to your life instead of subtracting from it.” From A Relationship Contract for Dementia Caregivers.
- Who energizes you and makes you laugh?
Laughter really is the best medicine. Spending time with friends or family who bring joy into your life is so important. It is all the better if they know and love the person you are caring for as well. They bring a history with both of you and a sense of perspective that is incredibly helpful.
Not everyone will understand what being a dementia caregiver requires of you. You may need to put some friends or family aside for awhile and that is OK. You need positive people who support you, who don’t make you second guess yourself or make you feel guilty if you need to cancel plans.
You will find your personal care team may have some of the same people who are part of the care team for the person living with dementia. The key is to make sure not all your interactions are about them and not you.
Look at the answers to questions one and two above, are there people who energize you who might love the same activities you do? Reach out to them and let them know they are an important part of your caregiving journey. Ask them if they would be willing to be a part of this new life with the understanding that things can change on a dime. Help them to understand that if you need to change plans it is not because you want to, it is because you need to. Then schedule time for a phone call or, if it is an activity, plan it far enough in advance that you can ask for help on that day.
- What do I need to feel like the best version of myself?
Certainly, everything we’ve talked about answers this question, but there is one more thing we must do that we too often neglect. And that is making appointments for our own healthcare regularly. I am ashamed to admit that when I recently went for a mammogram it had been SIX years since my last one. I would have sworn it was only two.
PLEASE make time to see your doctors. If we are not at our best physically, if we are exhausted, it is much harder to implement our care plan. If getting to a doctor seems overwhelming, then think about planning that appointment around a fun lunch or social activity. You will need to have coverage for the doctor, so why not combine the two?
Matt Perrin’s advice to anyone starting out on a dementia caregiving journey, from A Relationship Contract for Dementia Caregivers:
- Tell your PCP doctor about your caregiving. It will make a difference and can feel like a release. You are in this situation that is incredibly stressful and your PCP is another set of eyes and ears.
- You can do it. It may not seem and like it, but you can do it.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
Deb is the author of “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract and “A Relationship Contract for Dementia Caregivers.” Your Caregiver Relationship Contract is available in both English and Spanish. It explains how to have an intentional conversation and the how unspoken expectations can cause problems during caregiving. A Relationship Contract for Dementia Caregivers explains how important it is to learn how your person wants to live their life out and how you, the caregiver are the most important person in this relationship, giving you tips and tricks for this journey.
Click here to learn more about Your Caregiver Relationship Contract or here for the Spanish version: Su Contrato de relación como cuidador de un ser querido. Click here to learn more about A Relationship Contract for Dementia Caregivers.
Deb is available as a caregiver consultant. She will answer the question: “Where do I start?” and find the resources to alleviate your stress. If you would like to invest a half hour to learn how she can help you, please contact her at: Free 30 minute consulting call