Words of Wisdom: A Doctor Speaks on Self Care for the Caregiver
Summer is finally here in the Midwest! And so, too, come the longest days of the year. Following a winter packed full of isolation, grief, and loss related to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us welcome long warm summer days and perhaps the beginning of the return of some bits of normalcy.
For those of us who are caring for loved ones with cognitive or mental health disorders, such as dementia, our normal may not look like everyone else’s normal. Many of us already have fairly long days, as a result of our caregiving responsibilities. After all, someone must see to it that our loved ones eat, are cleaned and groomed, are safe, and hopefully, happy. That is why it is important for us to take good care of ourselves as well.
As you contemplate plans for the days ahead, I encourage you to deeply consider how you are prioritizing your own mental health. When is the last time you did something for you and only you? When is the last time you slept and awakened feeling rested and renewed? Are you getting enough sleep? The average person needs at least eight hours of sleep while some need nine.
Sometimes as we get older and our health isn’t what it used to be, bathroom needs or pain may interrupt our sleep, or perhaps we just have a lot on our mind, which makes it hard to get settled.
Home remedies help, like an Epsom salt bath before bed, having half of a banana as an evening snack, or a glass of coconut water in the late afternoon. Taking prescribed pain medication before bed has become an important part of the evening routine for many as well.
However, the single most important self-care activities you can do include being sure to make it to your annual doctor’s appointment and speaking to your doctor about any and all concerns you may have.
Further, engaging with organizations that support homebound seniors can make it a lot easier to get the help you need and feel more supported -- more comfortable taking breaks to care for yourself. Your local Area Agency on Aging is a great connection for helping you identify resources that are available to you and/or the person you are caring for. You deserve to rest. You deserve self-care. Treat yourself accordingly.
Dr. Sheria Robinson-Lane is a gerontologist, researcher and assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing with expertise in palliative care, long-term care, and nursing administration. Her research is focused on reducing health disparities for minority older adults with cognitive impairments and their informal caregivers. Her current research project seeks African American and Black men and women ages 18 years and older who regularly care for spouses, relatives, partners, or friends, age of 55 or older, who have regular forgetfulness or confusion. To learn more, call 734.764.9280, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org