From Frank … A New Year’s Challenge to Caregivers
Today’s note is directed to my fellow caregivers – you know who you are! As we begin the New Year, I want to challenge you to adopt some resolutions that prioritize something we caregivers often overlook: our own care.
In my experience, care-giving for an older family member is an act of love that carries tremendous reward. But there is no denying that it also requires tremendous personal sacrifice (that is often unrecognized) and brings unusual and prolonged periods of stress fed by guilt and worry.
And while caregivers have the power to address this situation, if you’re like me, you most likely put it off. So, this year let’s make a pact together. Let’s make 2023 the year where we prioritize our own care.
My tendency, dating to my days as a student, has always been to make resolutions in September. The beginning of a school year feeling most appropriate moment for behavior change. But since I’ve not been to school in many years (actually not in decades), this year I think I’ll be more conventional. 2023 is the year of I engage in more self-care. And yes, it will feel self-indulgent to focus on ourselves, but we have to push past that reaction. As flight attendants always remind us, in case of emergency it’s best to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
Frank's Resolutions …
What’s on my list? Something – anything – that improves my physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, or mental self.
First, I need to exercise more. I get plenty of “steps” on my daily commute, but its time I added some strength training which offers very important mental and physical health benefits. I love working out, but somehow fell out of the habit and know I need to get back to it.
Second, I need to socialize more. I’m super cautious due to COVID and my mother’s frailty, but I’m working on ways to see some friends and mitigate the risks. And there are workarounds if I think about it. For example, there are plenty of outdoor restaurants with heaters (and this week we didn’t even need the heaters!).
I’ve also decided to talk more with others about the challenges of caregiving (and with this column I’m already making progress). It’s easy to isolate from the outside world. The irony of being a caregiver is that you’re always with someone else, but you can feel very alone. Having the ear of others – trusted family, friends, and professionals is perhaps most critical to my mental health.
Those are my resolutions. What about you? And how might the Village help? You might decide to attend one of our social events each month, such as Wednesday’s Lunch Bunch. Or to get involved in our walking groups, or book clubs. You might just find that helpful ear or a new friend. And if there’s an activity that you’d really like to pursue in 2023, please let me know as there are likely others hoping for the same thing.
Caregivers, let’s make 2023 a banner year ... for ourselves! Will you join me on that journey?
Frank Finamore is Executive Director of the Village