The Best Defense is a Good Offense
“The best defense is a good offense,” is an adage that applies to everything from the Super Bowl to caregiving. It is especially important to ‘play defense’ at this time of the year. The grey days of winter have settled in and dreariness and monotony have become routine for the caregiver. Daily life becomes repetitive, living the same day over and over.
That day-to-day sameness can wear you down. But it’s that sameness that is critical to our older loved one’s sense of comfort and familiarity. The variety and novelty you need in your life to feel satisfied can be upsetting to your loved one. For you, variety is the spice of life; it re-energizes you, brings clarity, and sparks new ideas. So how do you break the day-to-day sameness and add variety to your life?
Join a support group. There are several local groups in the Lexington area (see list below). There are even several on-line support forums and groups available. Belonging to a support group, whether it is in-person or on-line can help:
- Provide an opportunity to meet and talk with other caregivers who are facing similar issues
- Give you a chance to talk openly and honestly about what you're going through
- Let you share ideas, compare notes, and find practical caregiving tips
- Locate the support you need to reduce the stress, anxiety, depression and fear that can come with caregiving
Just say YES. Say YES to any safe opportunity that comes along to get out and take a break from your everyday-ness. If a co-worker asks you to join them in a walk at lunch…say YES! if a neighbor asks you to go for coffee on Saturday morning…say YES! It’s the idea of breaking your pattern and doing something you would not normally do.
Start an exercise program and eat healthy. Being active helps you feel your best, lowers your stress, elevates your mood and improves your sleep. Find a program that will fit your lifestyle, your personality and your schedule. Visit the UK Health & Wellness website to learn about their MoveWell and EatWell programs. Also, don't forget that Karen Bryla McNees, EdD, RD, CHES, a registered dietitian with UK Health & Wellness will lead the presentation, The MIND Diet: Reducing the Risk of Alzheimer’s, at our upcoming Lunch & Learn February 15th.
Use respite care. Ask a family member, neighbor or friend to be a companion to your loved one for a few hours. Allow yourself time to get out and do the things you need to do or to take some time to rest. Try formal respite services, including in-home services, center-based services such as adult day care programs or overnight/week long stays at an assisted living, personal care or memory care facility. If you need help finding respite services, contact UK Elder Care, and we can help you get started finding a service in your area.
Recognize signs and symptoms of caregiver stress. In spite of all your best efforts sometimes the routine and repetitiveness of caregiving will get you down. It can be an overwhelming responsibility and can affect how you feel both physically and mentally. Caregivers can become withdrawn, experience increased stress and anxiety and allow depression to set in. Watch out--these negative feelings aren't instinctively noticed!
Do you recognize any of these signs?
- Anxiety, depression, irritability
- Feeling tired and run down
- Difficulty sleeping
- Overreacting to minor nuisances
- New or worsening health problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling increasingly resentful
- Drinking, smoking or eating more
- Neglecting other family/work responsibilities
- Cutting back on things you enjoy
If any of these signs seem familiar to you, seek professional help. UK has resources to assist you:
- Mental Health Therapist Program is a voluntary, confidential UK benefit that offers five (5) free sessions with a licensed and certified therapist. UK employees (FTE 0.50 or greater), spouses, partners and UK retirees are eligible. For more information please call (859) 257-8763.
- UK Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic offers a full range of clinical services for adults and adolescents. For more information please call (859) 323-6021 if you have UK PPO or other insurance. Please call (859) 218-5862 if you have UK HMO.
Caregiving is a unique and challenging journey. It becomes part of you; it becomes part of your purpose. Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver. Taking care of both your physical and mental health by venturing out of your every-day routine can make the difference between trudging through your caregiver duties or thriving during these times of increased responsibility.
Terri Weber, UK Elder Care Coordinator