Lifestyle

Horne: Caregiving—Put your oxygen mask on first

In my last column, I discussed seeking a life balance between working and caregiving.

Balance is a word bandied about considerably in today’s world.

We know we want it, but trying to really experience this illusive “state of equilibrium” with multiple external demands being placed on us is challenging.

Frequently the circumstances I seem to find myself in that stretch me beyond my coping comfort zone are an opportunity to see where internally I may be out of sync.

As my “work” hours have dramatically increased with the provision of care for my mom in my own home, it becomes a sink or swim challenge to change my perceptions of what I think is important.

Learning to make adjustments in my life that support “self care” is a recognition that is probably long overdue.

So, the first resource in caregiving and maintaining a work-life balance is making the choice to “put the oxygen mask on yourself first.”

It is a principle that works in financial planning as well and is often not practiced as a myriad of demands are placed on your finances.

Resources multiply by the understanding and practice of this principle.

In caregiving, it is your daily energy reserves, your sense of satisfaction in this role, your ability to practice patience that expands and suddenly you find yourself “not sweating the small stuff” anymore.

The demands don’t necessary decrease, but your reaction to them changes and this elusive balance or “state of equilibrium” is felt.

Some other simple recommendations for “self care” are:

• Pay attention to your own feelings both physically and emotionally. Stop, breathe, reflect and listen to others and to your own body. (I am taking the time to swim four early mornings a week now—it’s incredible!)

• Recognize and accept your own limits. Take one step at a time, one day at a time.

• Never assume that others know what you are feeling. Communicate and ask for help. Most people want to give it, but need your expressed invitation to take some action to be of assistance to you.

• Adjust to this “new normal” in your life. Accepting that extending yourself in a caring role is part of your life journey for now and that there is a reason, encourages gratitude.

Jot the insights and aha moments in a journal and embrace what the moments represent.

Also, accept the days where anger, resentment, frustration and discouragement rule your thoughts. It helps to let them flow through and begin the next day afresh.

As a caregiving role becomes the norm for a large percentage of baby boomers, collaboration and communication will be needed to find new strategies and support methods to deal with the demands.

Offering experiences learned and bringing positive participation to assist organizations, including the government, as we progress to this “new normal” of working and caregiving is needed.

I learned of one opportunity this week called the Patients as Partners/Patient Voices Network (PVN).

This network is made up of patients, caregivers, family members and others who want to use their patient or caregiving experience for positive change to the health care system.

More than 170 patient partners across the Interior are already involved in opportunities such as focus groups, advisory committees and learning sessions.

There are many levels on which to participate that are valuable. For more information visit the website at www.patientvoices.ca or contact Carol Stathers at 250-492-1142.

An upcoming volunteer orientation will be held in Kelowna on Thursday, Nov. 28, from 4 to 8 p.m. I’m going to attend to add my voice and become part of the solution. I hope to see you there!

 

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