Strategies to Help Yourself

The feeling of being caught between a rock and hard place, is so real when you are a caregiver. The exhaustion and feelings of helplessness, and hopelessness bring with them negative thoughts. It is important to understand and realise when these negative thoughts occur, it is a sign of depression and may not accurately reflect the situation.

As caregivers our ‘to do’ list is never ending. We don’t seem to catch a breath and we go from one thing to a next all day, every day. While this may just be the path of our lives, at the same time we need to work SMART.

S – Specific, M – Measurable, A – Achievable, R – Relevant, T – Time-Bound

1.    Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can. Everything does not have to be done at the same time or on the same day. Create a schedule for yourself and keep tweaking it until it works for you.

2.    Try to be with other people and to confide in someone you know and trust; it is often better than suffering alone. Keeping things bottled up is not healthy for you or your caree. Most persons who keep their emotions inside, become resentful and angry with their caree and family. You can also join Caregivers Support Group of Trinidad & Tobago.

3.    Participate in activities that may make you feel better, such as exercise, going to a movie or cricket, or attending a religious, social, or community event. Yes, that would mean leaving your caree in the care of someone else. Once you have left the relevant instructions everything will be okay. Trust that the person who is relieving you, also has a genuine concern for your caree.

4.    Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time; Rome was not built in a day, so do not expect everything to drastically improve overnight. High expectations sometimes lead to disappointment, so pace yourself and take it one day at a time.

5.    It is advisable to postpone important decisions until the depression has lifted. Before deciding to make a significant transition—change jobs, get married or divorced—discuss it with others who know you well and can offer another view of your situation. It is important to be in the know of yourself; analyse your feelings, put pen to paper and write it down. You may see a trend over time, for example, in the morning you are in a good mood, but by evening, you may feel the world is on your shoulders.

6.    People rarely ‘snap out of’ depression, and the people who expect you to do this are misguided in their understanding of your condition. Be careful and mindful of who you confide in. If you are not getting the support needed, then stop talking about how you are feeling to that person(s). Joining the Caregivers Support Group of Trinidad & Tobago may be an excellent alternative to get like-minded persons in a similar situation, who understand what you are feeling.

7.    Remember, positive thinking and the practice of new coping patterns will replace the negative thinking that is part of the depression. Negative thinking will be reduced as your depression responds to treatment. My personal favourite practice is affirmations. Every day I have a list of things I say to myself and this really carries me through the day. Write it down on a piece of paper or book that you can keep close by and say it a few times during the day. Trust me, it really works and slowly but surely all those negative thoughts will be no more. Examples of what you can write: I am a wonderful caregiver to my mother, I am doing the best I possibly can, I am a wonderful wife, I am a fantastic brother, I am strong and empowered and nothing will keep me down, I have a positive look on life. Just keep writing all that comes to mind. My list consists of over 60 items that I say to myself out loud and proud, every single day.

8.    Say “yes” to offers of help and engagement by family and friends who you know and trust. Forget the pride and do not refuse any help saying “I don’t think mom would want me to leave her alone” or, “no one can care for dad like me.” Let go and say yes. You will thank yourself later.  

Always remember that it takes a team to care for a loved one – a team that comprises of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, family, friends, yourself and your caree (to a certain degree).  Staying positive in your space requires a lot on your part. I agree it can be overwhelming and sometimes makes you just want to throw in the towel, but trust me, you are doing an excellent job and taking time for yourself is the best thing you can do for your caree.

Are you a Family Caregiver? Or Were you a Family Caregiver?  ALL are Welcomed.

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Saturday 11th May, 2019

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