Self-Care for Caregivers: Moving Past the Barriers
As a caregiver or care partner for a loved one with Parkinson’s disease, it’s likely you’ve been educated in the importance of self-care. Perhaps a well-intentioned family member, medical professional, or support group member gave you some tips on how to implement self-care practices such as an exercise routine, support group, or enjoyable activity. Given the many challenges and transitions that come with Parkinson’s disease, self-care practices can be vital in providing caregivers with the stamina to be in it for the long-haul.
What comes to mind when you hear or read the term “self-care practice”? For many, first thoughts can include: I don’t have the time, I don’t have the resources, or I don’t have the energy. For others, a swell of guilt may come when imagining taking time away from your loved one to devote to taking care of yourself. These are common and understandable responses; however, they do not necessarily have to be barriers to setting a self-care practice.
Let’s break two of these down further to address the challenges that may come up.
“I don’t have the time”
As a caregiver, your day may be filled with medical appointments, daily chores, and in later stages of Parkinson’s disease, providing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) for your loved one. There indeed may be very little time. However, it could also be that due to stress, it may seem like there is not enough time.
One way to actually see where the time is going in your day is to map it out. Consider using a planner to see what times of the day may be available for a brief pause. Second, self-care does not have to be a physical event.
Some examples of self-care that can be practiced throughout the day without additional time needed are: listening to music, repeating a mantra, speaking gently to yourself, noticing birds or trees in nature during any time outside during the day.1Practicing mindfulness is an example of self-care that does not necessarily require any additional time to be set aside.
"I don’t have the resources”
Self-care may require financial and social resources. Certain types of self-care such as a massage or a yoga class can carry with it an expense. Additionally, there may be the lack of social resources in terms of leaving your loved one in the care of another family member or professional for the time that you are out. Oftentimes, families are on a restricted budget due to the costs of treating the disease.
It may feel frivolous to spend money on a self-care activity. While this is understandable, it is worth considering the long-term cost of NOT practicing a self-care activity. How will not engaging in self-care impact your overall health and well-being? A second response to consider is self-care does not have to be expensive to be effective. Low cost self-care activities include: nail painting, self-massage, listening to music, spending time with little kids, cooking good food, writing in a journal, or talking with friends.1
Lastly, let’s address the social support component. Sometimes it may seem like no one is available to provide support, and for some this may be true. For others, it may be worth considering if there is the thought “I don’t want to bother x (friend/family)”. If so, it may be getting in the way. Ask yourself, is there a loved one that I trust who can spend time with my partner while I take a break?
Sometimes there are very real barriers to self-care; however, that does not mean you have to throw out the idea altogether. A regular and affordable self-care practice can be developed over time. If you get stuck, consider enlisting the support of a friend, family member or therapist. What are some challenges you have found get in the way of taking time for yourself? What ideas or practices have you found to be helpful in sticking to a regular self-care practice as a caregiver?
Do you think there is enough awareness of Parkinson's disease?