Caregiving is a gift we share with others. As a caregiver to family members and my community, I know I am leaving a legacy somewhere. As a caregiver, I know that my energy can become lackluster and drained when I take on the negative energy of others.
Giving care comes in many forms. One does not have to have Power of Attorney or Guardianship to be a caregiver. My great-aunt Milly was a person I found myself giving care to for many years. In her later years, I traveled over 900 miles at least monthly, sometimes more, to visit with her.
Her husband was a war veteran who suffered from mental illness from his years in the war and passed in the mid-1980s. After his passing, Aunt Milly volunteered for over 20 years for the American Red Cross as a hospital volunteer. Her smile was the first thing you saw each morning at the Reception Desk.
As time went by, she sold her home and moved into an assisted living center before moving into a nursing home. Her memory began to fade from dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. She was kind and loved everyone. Her piano playing of gospel hymns was outstanding; she could sit down and just play from memory. What never left her was her sense of humor - Aunt Milly told it like it was - transparent and truthful!
I want to share one of the caregiving activities we enjoyed. Finding photos galore, I created legacy books based on family members - she had no children, so her nieces and nephews were close to her. Separating the book into her early life, married life, family, and friends, I created four three-ring binder photo albums of her life, including cards from her wedding shower, her first home payment receipt, and the receipt when she bought her piano!
What a joy it was for us to remember and for me to learn more about her life when she shared stories from the past. It was also fun to add photos of the then and now from parties, visits, and trips to Bob Evans' Restaurant for lunch. These are the times I treasure now.
Distress makes it a priority in our daily lives. How you react and respond to the distressing issue can trigger negative emotions, depending on your mindset choice. That is a choice you make, from eyes open to how you manage daily activities to what you think about before you go to sleep.
Self-care is NOT selfish! For you to be at your best and fully able to care for others, it is important to make YOU a priority. Engaging in self-care shows your family, friends, work colleagues, and anyone else you encounter that you value yourself. Your mindset can change each day beginning with 5 MINUTES! You must become a priority on your calendar to make those 5 MINUTES count each day.
Here are some fun ways to use those 5 MINUTES. Find a quiet space for your retreat- yard, bathroom, closet, or car.
o Wiggle your toes, ankles, and legs.
o Stretch your hands and fingers high in the air.
o Take a breath in and out. Smile. Laugh, Repeat.
o Dance or twirl as if everyone is watching you.
o Read a book or poem aloud to the trees or flowers or your animals.
o Write three things down that you appreciate or are in gratitude for.
o Sit in the silence and let your mind think of nothing. Listen to the sounds around you.
o Say your daily intentions aloud.
o Repeat 5-4-3-2-1 as many times as needed to refocus your mind to think of something else.
o Look in the mirror and say “I Love You” while you hug yourself.
Being 100 percent good to yourself allows you to give 100 percent of yourself to others.