|A look through the trees out on to Mill Pond in Ashland/Photo by Douglas Flynn
Caregivers are constantly attentive of the needs of the loved ones they are caring for, but all too often can neglect their own needs. In order to give your loved one the best possible care, you have to make sure you remain healthy and do not take on too many responsibilities and risk burnout.
This chart [PDF, 216KB] can be used as a tool to remove the vague cloud that sometimes surrounds family caregivers and to help clarify what is happening to their health by focusing attention back to the caregiver first by becoming self-aware, replenishing and creating care plans that include the needs of the family caregiver so the whole family remains healthy.
There are four weekly charts that list replenishments and stressors. Upon completing the fourth week, the caregiver will have a very good sense of what their most important replenishments are, how stress is manifesting itself in their bodies and behaviors and practice reviewing and adapting new care plans to meet more of their needs.
Replenishments range from the basic sustenance of life to those things that connect us to joy and to who we are. They maximize your strength and help minimize the effects of all that is coming your way.
Take a brief moment or a block of time each day to replenish yourself as best you can.
Stressors are the tasks, emotions and thoughts that increase our heart rates, tighten our muscles in our shoulders and jaws and deplete our internal resources over time. Unchecked, these stressors can lead to fatigue, burnout and even illness.
Learn ways to address the effects of stress by checking off what you are experiencing on the Stressor section of the weekly Caregiver Checkup chart and answer the questions that follow the chart to help you identify specifics that you may need to add or to eliminate.
Creating Care Plans:
Begin looking at the context for stressful behaviors. What is triggering a difficult encounter? Is the sleep box not checked the night before a yelling or crying behavior is checked the following day? What thought is occurring in your mind right before a difficult moment? Try to see what patterns are beginning to emerge between the stress effects/behaviors and the replenishments you have experienced or are lacking?
As you become more self-aware of how much you can balance and still remain healthy, which changes frequently, you will see more readily the effects on yourself when things go awry due to a medical event, a change in routine or increased need.
When you notice a spike in the load you are carrying, as evidenced by an increase in stressors, begin connecting that sensation with the idea that the care plan is inadequate to trigger making a new plan for the day. Prioritize medical, safety and life-sustaining needs. If the increased load continues, evaluate the care plan and make a list of available community resources, decide which one you will contact and begin learning about how this service or program could be added to your care plan to get back to a healthy load.
Evaluate what went well, what improved and what areas still need attention. Reach out to another resource and begin the cycle again. Remember that more supports create a stronger structure.
Download or print the chart and evaluation questions [PDF, 216KB].
Contributed by Leslie May-Chibani©2014