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Judi Freedman

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Caring For the Family Caregiver

Posted: 06/18/2013 12:38 pm

As a member of the AARP Blogger Kitchen Cabinet On Family Caregiving, I frequently write about caregiving topics. While caregivers are very giving to others, I often find that caregivers (especially female caregivers) are last on the list when it comes to taking care of themselves. If you are a caregiver, I ask you to take a moment to stop, breathe, and be.

Last week, my yoga teacher N reminded those in the room that "we are all human beings and that we should spend more time being instead of constantly doing."

Now that I am retired from my full time corporate job, I am learning to adjust to a more flexible schedule -- however, I still often feel like I need to be doing rather than being. Maybe it's because I spent the past 30+ years doing -- taking care of my kids, taking care of my spouse, taking care of my mom, taking care of work, taking care of everyone... everyone, everyone, everyone... but myself. Sound familiar?

During the past five years, after losing my spouse, selling my house and emptying out my nest, I've tried to make an extra effort to take better care of myself. It hasn't been easy but I've learned a thing or two along the way and now I'm going to share some of my tips with you. As a caregiver, it's always easier to listen to someone else's advice instead of heeding your own. Here are a few suggestions:

Do Your Daily Exercise: Every morning I get on my stationary bicycle and pedal away. Now that I am not working, I pedal for 30 minutes. When I was working full-time, I used to pedal for 15 minutes each morning. It's a great time to catch up on my pile of magazines. Throughout the week I sprinkle in other forms of exercise like yoga, weight lifting and walking. (During the week as a special treat to soothe my sore muscles, I go have a massage since my friend D is a great masseuse or take a warm bath with epsom salts and fragrant lavender oil.)

Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables: I used to do public relations for V8 Vegetable Juice many years ago and ever since I always try to eat or drink my five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. A 100 percent fruit juice, smoothie or piece of fruit for breakfast, blueberries for lunch, salad and more vegetables for dinner. Ooh, ooh, ooh, I should also add my daily serving of dark chocolate covered raisins -- raisins are a fruit aren't they?

Take Time To Smell The Roses: I went to the farmer's market this week to get a sweet potato for dinner. On my way to get the sweet potato I stopped in the flower gardens to see all the beautiful flowers. The colors of the flowers were magnificent, truly magnificent. In addition to my sweet potato, I bought a pot of pink flowers and put the pot in front of my house. Now the pretty flowers brighten my day every time I go outside. (Hopefully, I will remember to water my flowers throughout the summer so that they will not die and will continue to brighten my days all summer long.)

Talk Or Listen To Your Friends:
My friends help me celebrate my good times and help me manage through my bad times. My friends provide fresh or different perspectives on caring for my loved ones or thoughtful advice when it comes to making some of my big and little life decisions. And sometimes it's great to just talk to my friends and have them listen. Yes, I've learned that listening is not only a good leadership skill for business but a good friendship skill to develop and share with others.

Get More Sleep: Ever since I've had kids I don't get enough sleep. And definitely as a caregiver during the past 30+ years, sleep deprivation has taken its toll on my mind, body and spirit. I've seen a sleep doctor, taken sleep medicines and remedies and some nights I just cannot fall asleep or stay asleep thanks to my menopausal moments -- which I thought I was over with but apparently am not. (Is it hot in here? Yep, there go the covers.) During my life after 50, I'm determined to get more sleep. It's a top priority for me and it should be for all boomer girls (and boomer guys too) who want to age gracefully.

So, so, so... what are you going to do to take care of yourself during your life after 50? If you are a family caregiver (which I know many of you are) check out the AARP Caregiving Resource Center for more healthful and helpful information. By the way, also check out this article from The New York Times about helper robots, who may someday be our caregivers. Imagine that!

 

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