It occurred to me this morning that I have all these well-developed caregiving skills. I had previously identified specific parts of caregiver recovery but I didn’t have any clear picture of how to recover. Now I’m wondering if
part of the process is being intentional about using these skills on me? I’m alone. I need care in this difficult time, just like Larry needed care in his difficult time. So I came up with a list of competencies I developed while caring for Larry. This gave me more detail to create a better picture of caregiver recovery. I can use my caregiving skills on me!
- Be patient with slowness and disability: Allow myself plenty of time to do nothing and just move slowly through the day.
- Pay close attention to health: Catch up on doctor appointments, eat healthy, get exercise (I’ve joined a hula hoop class)
- Accept help that’s offered and also ask for help: I asked a neighbor to drive me to the airport because I just didn’t feel like going it alone with Uber.
- Notice and mitigate symptoms: one symptom I’m working on is my tense jaw, neck, and shoulders. I’m trying to just notice how often my teeth are clenched – seems like every time I think to pay attention. Plus I had a massage this week.
- Find fun activities that are manageable: I can’t handle big gatherings yet but I go to dinner with a neighbor when invited, take beach walks, ride my bike for a few minutes, and practice my hula to music.
- Search for ways to find comfort: I read happy novels, use nice coffee mugs, notice nature , hug the dog, take long hot showers, get massages or pedicures to feel the comfort of touch, and wear comfortable clothes that make me feel good.
- Use trial and error: when something doesn’t work I try something else.
- Right-size expectations: I’m leaving a lot of things undone, especially things I don’t like to do.
- Know I can’t multi-task right now.
- Be strong or gentle with myself as necessary. Know that both are possible.
- Accept that crankiness and fatigue is part of the journey but don’t allow myself to get stuck in it.
- Choose who I spend time with according to whose energy feels good to be with. Larry and I never chose to spend time with people who offered pity rather than empathy.
- Remember that whatever is today will be different tomorrow.
- Heighten my awareness of my needs and wants: I was great at this with Larry and it takes enormous work to do this for myself.
- Attend to spiritual needs: prayer, meditation, ritual. Last week I tried a singing bowl meditation and this week went to hear a Buddhist monk.
- Try to stay upbeat and generally optimistic.
- Keep a sense of humor: Alexa, tell me a joke!
- Find ways to stay in the ongoing stream of life: Keep living, whether I feel like getting out of bed or not. Don’t let myself get isolated or focused only on my grief.
I’m going to print this list out and read it on a regular basis. I have great confidence that these are skills and behaviors that I am good at, with which I have a lot of experience. Now I can use my caregiving skills on me, and hopefully be as good at it as I was for Larry!