13 New Years Resolutions for Caregivers!

13 New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

It’s human to want a fresh start. Even though I know that December 31st of one year is rarely that different for me than January 1st of the next, I greet each New Year’s Day the same way I once, as a child, greeted the gift of a fresh box of crayons and a new tablet – as a new beginning. Even though my childish mind soon learned that the point on my crayon would quickly flatten, and I’d have made a “mistake” of some kind on my fresh tablet before the first minute went by, there was always a psychological boost for me with this fresh start. I had a chance, if only for a moment, to experience perfection.

Like most caregivers, I always wanted to be the “best,” yet I knew I fell short. There is no way that I know of to be a perfect caregiver. The needs of any care receiver can change subtly, in a flash. We can miss signals, or just be so tired and stressed we know we can’t deliver everything needed, no matter how hard we try. That can bring on a huge case of unearned, caregiver guilt.. Most of you have been there.

My thought is that we can look at the shiny New Year with fresh eyes, even though that freshness may only last a moment. What will it hurt? We already know reality will arrive soon enough. That’s okay.

Let’s make a list of New Year’s resolutions and pretend we’ll keep them. Progress is good, even though we won’t ever achieve perfection.

New Year’s Resolutions to Consider

  1. I give myself permission to not keep the resolutions I am now making, or to keep them only part way.
  2. When I feel I am imperfect, I will remember that guilt is not an option, as long as I know I did the best I could with the knowledge I had.
  3. I will find time alone for myself, even though that seems impossible. That may mean asking for help from people I’ve never considered.
  4. I will say no to requests for my time when I know I can’t do more than I am already doing, no matter how deserving the person or agency.
  5. I will remember that family members and friends who are not care receivers deserve some of my time, which may mean a little less time for the care receiver.
  6. I will carry through with my own health care appointments and screenings, including dental and eyes.
  7. I will find a way to monitor my own energy levels so I can renew myself before I hit “exhaustion and burnout.”
  8. I will remember that getting advice from agencies such as the National Family Caregivers Support Program or Hospice Care are signs of strength, not weakness.
  9. I will remember that my care receiver didn’t choose the illness or disability that he or she is living with.
  10. I will remember that I didn’t choose this life for him or her, either, so I won’t be a martyr to that person’s illness.
  11. I will remember that taking care of my own needs isn’t selfish. Statistics show that 30 percent or more of the caregivers die before those they care for. Taking care of myself is necessary for everyone.
  12. I will get appropriate help for myself if depression or other mental health issues become apparent to friends and family.
  13. I will be open to alternative ways of caring for myself. This can include massage, aroma therapy (lavender or another relaxing scent sprinkled on a pillow or in a soothing bath) and/or some form of meditation. Meditation, from quiet time outdoors, reading inspirational material or sitting quietly, breathing deeply and clearing the mind have been shown in studies to improve mental and physical health.

This is a start. What can you add? Which “resolutions” would you delete? If you copy off this list, and put it in a document on your computer, you can whack away at will, laugh at the suggestions that seem impossible, and add your own. Even if that is all the farther you get with taking a look at the New Year through different eyes, you will probably have gained a little insight into your situation.

Happiness isn’t about perfection, it’s about having reachable expectations. We all have room to adjust our expectations to more closely match reality if we try, and just that change can help us have a happier year as we face our challenges. I wish you and your loved ones well.

(For Texas Medical Center Hospice, Houston, Tx.)   (DJS)

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