New Year’s Resolutions for the Caregiver

By Carol O’Dell —

New Year’s is a time of hope. Wipe the slate clean. Begin again.

I was on a walk the other day, thinking about resolutions. Thinking about the word, resolve. To re-solve. A resolution is a re-solution. That means that once upon a time, it wasn’t a problem.

That’s true. We weren’t always overweight. We didn’t always drink too much, smoke, spend too much, or see our loved one’s too little. So, a resolution is just getting back to that former state.

Think back, when was it that you weren’t overweight? Perhaps your teens? Before kids? For some of us, we have to think back even younger. But there was probably a time. You didn’t think about food all the time. You rode your bike. Played little league.

Your body remembers this. In sports, they call this muscle memory. If your body (or mind) has ever done it once, it remembers-and can do it again.

This works for more than just weight. So I thought about it: I used to spend copious hours on my bike as a kid. I can bike now. I used to sing for the heck of it. I can sing in my car. I used to draw. I think I’ll go outside and draw that live oak tree in my back yard.

As caregivers, we can make resolutions too. So just for fun, I propose a Top Ten Caregiver’s Resolution List:

1. Sleep. Sleep more. Sleep anywhere, any time, any how. Dream of uninterrupted sleep.

2. Not totally blow my top at anyone–a nurse, my loved one, the pharmacist.

3. Not eat my way into oblivion–food is not my best friend (repeat 10 times a day)

4. Remember where I’m driving–zoning out is dangerous. I may need a loud buzzer horn or taser. Stess causes zoning out, I’m sure.

5. Walk every day. Even if it’s just to the mailbox. Walking is good. Sun is good. I need this.

6. Get out and meet people. Normal people not in the health-care/elder-care profession. There’s a great big world out there and I need to see it once in a while.

7. To actually want sex and intimacy and do something about it. Sex drive? Is that like, four wheel drive? Yes, I remember….vaguely.

8. To get dressed in something other than a jogging suit–something NOT with an elastic waistband. This relates to not eating a whole frozen pizza and walking to the mailbox, doesn’t it?

9. Do something for me, just me. People do that? Lunch with a friend, getting my nails done, putzing through an antique shop-caring for me is actually part of caregiving…who knew?

10. Ask for help. Pray, cry, meditate, journal, scream, go to a support group, go to church, ask for respite care, pay for care for an afternoon off, try adult day care for my loved one. Ask, ask, ask-caregiving is not a lone sport. It takes a village.

Bonus-

11. Not be afraid-of caregiving, cancer, Alzheimer’s, ALS, or death.

Fear is a big woolly monster trying to gobble up your precious days. Turn around and face it–yell big and loud–“I’m not afraid! I can do this!”

Extra Bonus

12. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Each night before I go to sleep, I ask myself, “What was the ┬ábest part of ┬áthe day?” Usually, it’s a dragonfly that stopped right in front of me, or a neighbor who gave me a big smile when she saw me. It’s the small moments that stick. Being grateful in a time in your life when so much is beyond your control is a way of turning the tables in your favor. The more you’re grateful, the more you have to be grateful for–it’s like a fan that keeps expanding.

The beginning of the year is a magical time. Resolutions represent hope. Hope for change. You already know how to do this. After all, it’s just a re-solution.

Carol O’Dell is author of Mothering Mother. Reach her at [email protected].

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Carol O'Dell

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Carol D. O'Dell's gripping memoir MOTHERING MOTHER, (April 1, 2007 by Kunati Publishing) is for the "sandwich" generation and overflows with humor, grace and much needed honesty. Written with wit and sensitivity, Mothering Mother offers insight on how to not only survive but thrive the challenges of caring for others while keeping your life, heart, and dreams intact. Carol is an inspirational speaker and instructor focusing on caregiving, spirituality and adoption issues. She has been featured on numerous television, radio and magazine and podcast programs including WEDU/PBS, Artist First Radio, "Coping with Caregiving" national radio, Women's Digest and Mature Matters Publications. Her fiction and nonfiction work has appeared in numerous publications including Atlanta Magazine, Southern Revival, MARGIN, and AIM, America's Intercultural Magazine Carol appeared on the radio show "Healing the Grieving Heart" with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss "Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir." To hear Carol being interviewed on this show, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley031308.mp3

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