Take the time to recharge your batteries, that is, your mind and body. By replenishing your energy, you can be a better caregiver.
Many caregivers share that they often feel fatigued, stressed, alone and unappreciated. Being mindful in your cancer caregiving role is important. Mindfulness can offer a renewed hope for finding support and value for your role as a caregiver.
Mindfulness requires that you pay attention to how you feel in the present moment and that you do so in a non-judgmental way. It requires that you slow down and connect to your heart so that you can more fully experience yourself and life around you. Mindfulness embraces compassion, kindness and patience.
When you apply mindfulness to caregiving, you are able to:
- be intentional in the care you provide and the time you spend with your care recipient
- be aware of your emotions and feelings and how they affect you
- recognize your relationship with the care recipient for what it is
- travel your unique path without being critical or judgmental of yourself and your feelings
- stay in the moment with openness and acceptance
- recognize that you cannot be responsible for all the care that your care recipient needs
Source: The Mindful Caregiver, Kriseman, 2014
When you are in a stressful moment, mindful breathing can also help you focus on what is important in that moment. This does not have to be time consuming or invasive – just find a spot to sit and practice a breathing pattern. Mindful is a great resource to learn more and see different breathing patterns.
You can incorporate mindfulness into self-care by identifying new ways of taking care of yourself. There are many ways you can incorporate rest even when you feel that there is so much to be done. Getting a good night’s sleep and taking a nap during the day are very effective ways to combat stress and re-energize yourself.
You can identify positive sources of comfort which can include finding an exercise routine that makes you feel good, hanging out with friends, gardening or sitting in a garden, finding a peaceful place to pray or to just be quiet (The Mindful Caregiver, Kriseman, 2014). Click here for more information on Mindfulness.
On a practical level, you may find it useful to organize tasks by considering how urgent a task is. Making a doctor’s appointment or a medical visit may be higher on your priority list while items like grocery shopping and cleaning the house may be lower. Some of the items on your list can be delegated when you are balancing work and your caregiving role. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has a self-care guide for caregivers.
Help for Cancer Caregivers has an article titled Help. I’m Not Handling This Well with suggestions on dealing with the emotions you may be feeling as a caregiver. They also have suggestions to balance work and caregiving. Note that information on the Family Medical Leave Act does not apply to Canadians. However, most provincial and territorial labour codes protect the jobs of employees who have to leave work temporarily to care for a family member who has a significant risk of death within 6 months.
Help for Cancer Caregivers’ resources on money provides information about other financial support. Note that some of the advice on this website pertains only to the United States.
For tax credit information, see Disability Tax Credits Are For Caregivers Too By Doug Lagasse.