Keeping the Light On

light_switch_03When Judy moved in with her dad because of his diagnosis of early stage Alzheimer’s, she thought she’d do a little extra to help him out. What was a little extra now consumes her day. It’s not just the laundry, cleaning and meals. It’s the doctor appointments, the continual reminders to her dad that he can’t drive, the constant organizing of medications. And, then, of course, there’s the patience required in living with someone who leaves his hearing aides on the side table while the TV blasts.

As the caregiving days blend into each other, Judy watches her life go dim. She feels like darkness surrounds her, waiting to pounce.

Caregiving can require sacrifices of your time, your freedom, your opportunities. It also requires that you watch as another experiences a steady decline. It’s no wonder you can feel like the lights turn off in your world.

When caregiving seems to throw you into darkness, these tips can help you find the light:

1. Stay connected. Talk to family members and friends and other family caregivers every day. Join a caregiving support group in your community and online. When you feel isolated, you stay in the dark. When you stay connected to your relationships, you’ll feel brighter. Be sure to check out our caregiving groups.

2. Take a walk. The movement of walking will help elevate your mood. You also may begin to feel that you walk out of your problems, that you return home with a better perspective about what happens in your home. Try to walk every day for at least 30 minutes. And, do what you have to do to protect your walk–it’s that important to your well-being. Be sure to join our VRide group so you can keep track of your miles.

3. Engage in an activity outside of caregiving. Before you know it, your life is all about caregiving. Keep an activity or an interest that reflects your values and priorities and separates you from caregiving. Maybe it’s reading one book a week or knitting as you watch “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” Whatever gives you a break, do it. Not sure what to do? Try joining our Caregiving Book Club or our Beautiful group which asks you to find and share the beauty in your day.

4. Help another. Your world can seem like the worst world possible. Until you reach out to help another and realize we all have a pain in our heart. Volunteer in your community or online. Getting out of your head and heart will do your head and heart good. On CareGiving.com, you can volunteer as a WAIT Buddy or a Phone Buddy.

5. Learn something new. It may be something new about your caree, about your family or about how the world turns. Be curious about what’s around you. When you’re curious, you keep an open mind. An open mind is like putting on a night light.

6. Speak with a counselor or life coach. The dynamics of caregiving can feel like they fray your soul. You’ll face the fears of everyone, including your own, daily. What you see during caregiving can keep you looking down. Professional help from a counselor or a life coach will teach you coping strategies which will help you look up. Your first 30-minute caregiving coaching session with me is free; send me an email to schedule.

7. Create. Turn your pain and worry and fear into a journal, a short story, a garden, a painting, a photograph. @ejourneys used her creative juices to create Caregiving in Five Lines, a beautiful book of 30 photo-poems. Join our Caregivers Create group and check out out Community Caregiving Journal for inspiration.

How do you deal with the darkness caregiving can bring to your life? Please share in our comments section, below.

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About Denise Brown

I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched CareGiving.com in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

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