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The caregiver’s role
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Taking care of yourself

The role of a family caregiver is without question very psychologically demanding. In fact, it involves many duties that take a great deal of energy, especially since these duties generally need to be performed over long periods of time.


Karène Larocque, psychologist, compares family caregivers to psychological athletes, given the feats they perform on a daily basis. She highlights the patience they must show day after day, the constant attention they give to their loved ones and the self-control they display in certain difficult situations, especially since they try to keep in good spirits for the sake of person receiving care, despite the suffering, disease and loss of autonomy faced every day.

 

I often hear family caregivers say: ‘yes, but I like doing that, I like giving!’ Even if we like it, we still have to recharge our batteries. It is like someone saying: ‘I like driving around in the car.’ Even if you like it, you still have to stop and refuel in order to keep going. Karène Laroque, psychologist

To continue performing their caregiving role, and the resulting psychological feats, it becomes important, indeed essential, for these family caregivers to replenish their energy reserves regularly, to keep psychologically fit. To support a loved one every day, family caregivers need all their energy and by giving themselves time to relax, they can refuel so they can perform their role well. That said, relaxing can become a genuine challenge with such busy days. So, how do we find time to relax?

Think of yourself

Thinking of yourself means reserving time every day to recharge your batteries by doing something you enjoy, something you like. A realistic goal is more likely to be achieved than big, bold projects! This can take the form of a 20-minute nap, gardening, reading, a 10-minute walk or a music break, for example. The main thing is that the activities you choose match your wishes, that they relax you and that they replenish you with all the energy you need.

Stretch

Muscle tension, often linked to stress, can be eased through stretching exercises as soon as you feel pain. This does not mean training for the New York marathon, but engaging in relaxation exercises that allow the muscles in the most sensitive areas (neck, shoulder, legs) to relax and that provide psychological relaxation.

Breathe

To succeed in letting go at least once a day, you could practise rhythmic breathing. This is a natural method of inhalation through the nose down to the lungs and then the belly and exhalation through the mouth. To help you with this method, there are a few mobile apps that can guide you in your breathing exercises and thus help you get back in touch with yourself and the present moment.

Since this is Psychology Month, why not select one of these three paths as a resolution for taking care of yourself? Whether it is your first sip of coffee in the morning, a few stretches before meals or a simple moment to practise rhythmic breathing, you will see that these pleasures, as small as they may be, will help you recharge your batteries. Who knows, maybe you will get a taste for taking care of yourself?

 

For more information, call Caregiver Support at 1 855 852-7784. Our professional counsellors are on hand to listen, provide information and direct you to resources and services in your area.


Sources

Written by: L’Appui pour les proches aidants, in collaboration with Karène Larocque, psychologist, and Marie-Josée Lagacé, psychoeducator.