Happy New Year to family caregivers!
At the start of a new year, you may find yourself reflecting on many things: the passing of time, friends and family, making new goals for day-to-day living, and larger New Year’s resolutions.
One thing to consider as the new year begins is the idea of simply enjoying the moment or being in the moment. This approach is often very helpful for individuals caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
What “being in the moment” means is to go with what is happening at that moment, or being mindfully aware of what is happening right here and now. While it might sound simple, this practice is not easy to do. For family caregivers especially, your thoughts are likely going in many other directions. You need to get to work, make dinner, do the laundry, return phone calls, or run other errands.
However, practicing mindfulness may help you reduce stress and even connect with your loved one.
The idea of mindfulness is rooted in Buddhism. It is based on the idea of shifting our thoughts away from these usual preoccupations and worries, and move toward an appreciation of the moment. For example, you might try to step back and enjoy the moment, or enjoy what is at hand, such as a tasty cookie, a cold glass of juice, or a beautiful view out the window. Sharing these thoughts and moments with the person you are caring for also helps to maintain connections.
Additionally, practicing mindfulness can also help you better listen, understand, and give proper attention to what your loved one may be communicating in the immediate present. Making time to understand and meet the immediate needs of the person you are caring for can help to decrease stress and anxiety.
One excellent resource for caregiving is the Alzheimer’s Reading Room. This blog was started by Bob DeMarco, a caregiver for his mother. He and others write about all kinds of topics related to caregiving, including mindfulness.
Hopefully, the concept of being in the moment will be helpful to you in this new year. Caregiving is one of the most difficult and yet rewarding roles. We should all try to step back, enjoy the small pleasant moments in our days, and share them with our loved ones.
And, remember to be kind to yourself. As mentioned above, being a caregiver is very demanding, so be sure to give yourself a break and enjoy a few pleasant moments in each day.
Have other ideas or advice for practicing mindfulness when caring for a family member? Let us know in the comments!
This article was adapted from a Wellness & Arts Center Newsletter by nurse Ellen Feeney.