Guest Blog: Self-Care Measures for Care Providers
- February 3, 2022
Bakerlaw recognizes the important role played by caregivers in avoiding unnecessary institutionalization. Ontario’s new (link) Long-Term Care Bill may leave those who refuse to be institutionalized and their caregivers without support. Bakerlaw is concerned this new legislation may not comply with Ontarians’ Charter equality rights, by forcing them to accept institutionalization when community care and support would be preferable. Bakerlaw has been at the forefront of challenges to Ontario’s institutionalization laws and regulations. You can read about our efforts to import the “Olmstead Principle” – an American case which held that it is discriminatory to place people in institutions when they can receive the care they need in the community with support – to Ontario. You can read about bakerlaw’s work on deinstitutionalization here (link):
Bakerlaw welcomes the below blog post by guest author Harry Cline, of NewCaregiver.org, which provides tips and suggestions for caregivers. Guest posts are not authored by bakerlaw staff and reflect their author’s views alone. Bakerlaw is not responsible for the content of guest posts and they do not constitute legal advice.
When you’re a brand new caregiver, it’s essential that you build time into each day for self-care measures. This should include things like eating well and exercising, maintaining social connections, and finding enjoyable things you can do with your loved one. If you devote all of your time to caregiving responsibilities and neglect yourself, it can lead to burnout, in which case neither you nor your loved one is actually benefiting.
Maintain Exercise Routines
Setting time aside every day to get in some physical activity will help keep you sharp, focused, and put you in a state of mind that allows you to think more clearly. It will also help with your stress levels, and your sleep, which can help you maintain your own health and well-being. Get outside for fresh air or walk on a treadmill in the home. A fitness tracker or smartwatch are good ways to ensure you’re getting in steps every day.
Prepare Nutritious Meals
As a caregiver, you’re likely preparing a specialized diet for the loved one you’re caring for. Make sure you’re feeding yourself healthy meals as well. Medical News Today advises turning to whole foods (link) like lean meats and dairy, fresh produce, and whole grains. Also, be careful about how much coffee and alcohol you consume, and drink plenty of water to protect against dehydration. Meal prep can help ensure you’re not trying to cobble together meals at the end of a long day and will help prevent you from turning to high-processed comfort foods or fast food.
Create a Healthy Environment
If you’re caring for someone who is primarily homebound, you’ll want to make the living environment (link) as healthy as possible. Bring in natural light and fresh air, declutter, and use an air purifier in inclement weather. Find cleaning products that are non-toxic (link) to reduce the potential for chemicals in the air. Even adding live plants and eye-catching decor can create an environment that is healthy, invigorating, and cheerful – something everyone in the household can benefit from!
To prevent burnout (link), don’t give up your social connections with friends and loved ones – you need their support. If you have a hobby, continue it, and incorporate your loved one wherever you can. Also, help your loved one maintain their own outside relationships – it will boost their spirits. If the person you’re caring for is mobile or can get out and about, help them with socializing activities. Even short walks or outings to local points of interest can add a little bit of variety into each day and help you feel like you’re not stuck in a house 24/7.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety
It can be stressful, caring for a loved one, and there’s a possibility the person you’re caring for is experiencing anxiety of their own. According to Mayo Clinic, learn relaxation breathing techniques (link) and meditative practices together as a way to connect, as well as care for yourselves. Consider starting gratitude journals in which each of you takes stock of the things that are good in your lives. This can allow both of you to focus on the positive things in life rather than dwell on the negative.
Becoming a caregiver is a major responsibility, and you should seek out available supports for your caregiving.
To ensure you have the stamina and the emotional and mental capacity to handle the role, self-care measures are essential. It’s only by caring for yourself that you are well-positioned to care for someone else.