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8 Ways to Be a More Optimistic Caregiver

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If you were asked to answer the question, “Today I feel grateful for______?” , what would you answer? If you said, “Not much, ” you’re not alone.

Everyone feels that way sometimes. No matter how you feel, you’re likely to feel differently tomorrow after a better night’s sleep, or lunch with a friend, or a few minutes of prayer and meditation.

Consider family caregiver Dee’s response when asked the question about what she’s grateful for: “Not much,” DeeAnn candidly commented. “It’s been a bad day, and I don’t roll with the punches very well.”
In contrast, Ednita claimed gratitude for “the occasional breeze we’re getting today” while Chris was grateful to “still being able to help others.”
Some caregivers may relate more with DeeAnn and less with Ednita and Chris as they go through their stressful caregiving day. And that’s OK. Like every other human being, family caregivers experience good days and bad days.
But if you’d like to learn how to cultivate more optimism in your caregiving life, you may be interested in these tips for creating positivity and building resiliency in the face of adversity.

1. Look for the Good
Author Catherine Pulsifer said, “To find optimism, look for the good things in life.” This advice may be easier said than done, however it’s important to help keep the negative thoughts at bay. Try making a list each day of things that are good in your life. Some caregivers shared that they were grateful for the little things like a cool breeze, a nap, or sunshine. When problems loom large, look for the small bright spots in your life.

2. Speak kindly – to yourself
“Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else,” recommends a mayoclinic.org article on positive thinking. Turning off the negative dialogue in your head can be a powerful tool to harness optimism. The first step is recognizing negative thoughts and reframing them in your mind. For example, instead of thinking, “This will never work,” you might say to yourself, “I’ll try again a different way.” Positive thinking takes practice, and with time you’ll notice fewer critical or negative thoughts popping into your mind.

3. Lean on positive people
Surrounding yourself with positive friends and family is helpful when trying to stay upbeat yourself. Phyllis, a family caregiver, said that she is grateful for “the helpful people I have met on my journey. Their kindness is inspirational.” Seeing the positivity in others and involving them in your life can be powerful. “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” said the late Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker. Choose to spend time with those that give you energy and positivity, not people that take it from you. If getting together in person is not possible, connect online or join a supportive online community such as the Caregiver Stress Relief community.

4. Find happiness through health
A healthy diet and exercise can go a long way to improve mood and maintain positivity in your life. Exercise can reduce stress, increase energy, and foster good sleep habits. Can’t find 30 minutes a day to exercise? Break it up into three 10-minute chunks. With today’s technology, you can find activities to get you moving online or even “On Demand” workouts through your cable TV provider. Eating well can also impact wellbeing. Maintaining a healthy diet is a priority for Cindy, a family caregiver. “It’s probably one of the most important things to do to keep my mind sharp,” she said.

5. Remember you are doing your best
Alzheimer’s expert Karen Garner, who cared for her late husband, Jim, who had early onset Alzheimer’s, tells caregivers to remember"…you know you did the best you could at that particular moment. “I was entrenched in the battle of caregiving that leaves little room for luxuries like taking the time to write and read and sit quietly to reflect on all that is happening.” She reminds caregivers that they showed up when it mattered the most and were present. “At times, you may have lost your patience, but that doesn’t detract from all the other positives you have done,” she said.

6. Laugh to lighten your load
Not only does laughter make you feel good, its positive effects stay with you long after the chuckling subsides. Research shows that laughter lowers stress hormones, relaxes muscles, improves mood, and eases anxiety. According to HelpGuide.org, “Humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.” Some caregivers not only find laugher for themselves, they share it with others. Linda says that she is always grateful for “another day filled with laughter with my loved one.”

7. Keep it simple
Sometimes, doing only what needs to be done – dishes, laundry, meals – can make the days less daunting. Don’t set unrealistic goals for yourself. Family caregiver Angela describes how she lets it go “if in fact my sofa wins the day” and she doesn’t meet her own expectations. To keep it simple, she tries to pick one thing to accomplish and focuses on that.

8. Take time for yourself
Whether it’s a quick walk around the block or meeting a friend for lunch, taking a break from caregiving duties is important for your health and wellbeing. If you’re able to take time off, it will be good for both you and your loved one. Gail is a caregiver to her father and said she is grateful for “…the care companions who do so much more than just give me some respite time. They engage Dad in a way that helps him be alert and happy.” Look to a family member, friend, or professional caregiver to give you a few hours to yourself so you can recharge and maintain an optimistic outlook.

Caregiving can be rewarding, but no caregiver breezes through the journey without feeling some degree of negativity and hopelessness creeping in. By following tips to stay positive, you may be able to transition your outlook to one of optimism and gratitude for even the smallest positive things in life.
Consider the benefits of respite care, which can help provide a break from the rigors of caregiving and help you focus more on the blessings in your life. To learn more, find a Home Instead Senior Care office near you.

Last revised: December 30, 2019

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. September 17, 2020 at 4:44 pm | Posted by Food

    An added important component is that if you are a mature person, travel insurance for pensioners is something you must really think about. The mature you are, a lot more at risk you happen to be for getting something terrible happen to you while in another country. If you are not covered by several comprehensive insurance policies, you could have quite a few serious difficulties. Thanks for revealing your guidelines on this blog.

    Reply

  2. January 22, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Posted by Pauline Vaas

    I thought you were going to talk about the stress of being the recipient of care giving, after a life time of being a care giver. It is very difficult not to think negatively of yourself, calling yourself lazy or helpless or weak because you are suddenly afflicted with a devastating disease that makes it impossible to care for those who desperately need your help. I have a child who has severe and profound intellectual disability, and now have Stage 4 cancer. I hate my situation, and find myself turning the thoughts of negativity on myself. I an grateful for the support of my loving friends and family, most of all. I am grateful for the advances in medical science that have made it possible for me to hope for a longer future than would be been possible just a few years ago. I am grateful every day that the sun shines, and the rain that falls on the plants that my husband planted outside of my window that provide flowers to admire. I am grateful that I live in a safe neighborhood, and a society with relative peace, security and order.

    Reply

  3. August 13, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Posted by Laurie LeBlanc

    I've been a caregiver for 11 years to my husband. I was very committed to it until five years ago when his mother told me he had been lying to me about some things since before we were married. Of course his mother has nothing to do with us but did her damage. I work full time. He is mobile and can do things. I have him in a 3 day a week program and with a companion 1 day and alone the other days. It is not easy to keep doing this when I know he didn't respect me. He will stay here as he has nowhere and no one but honestly it's hard to care and try to do things together anymore.

    Reply

    • August 15, 2018 at 7:01 pm | Posted by Sue Schulte

      Dear God, you are a saint in this situation. His mother is dispicable. Whatever she said to you was pure venom and may not even be true. Your life with your husband is the true story. Try to ignore whatever she said. Maybe she would like to take over the caregiving responsibilities.

      Reply

  4. August 9, 2018 at 12:44 pm | Posted by Josefina or Josie

    Thank you for giving me a heads up & points & obligations for being a caregiver I fully understand how to be one & I have experience of taking care of seniors. With my family members, friends & my job as a senior caregiver, I have to be compassionate, caring, understanding to their situations & with honesty, & respect them as an individual person, & their privacy.

    Reply

  5. January 11, 2018 at 11:44 am | Posted by Allen Block

    My beloved wife, Lynne had two strokes, 10/09/12. She was given little chance of being much more than a vegetable by the Doctors. She went from coma to sitting from confusion and hallucinations to substantial cognitive ability. She walks with limp and has arthritis in her shoulder. and vertigo.Yes, it has been 5 years. I could not afford to have a 5 day a week care giver for her, so initially I worked part time. (3 days a week) I then stopped working to spend more time creating activities for she and I. I spent months trying to find cures for her vertigo and arthritis. Care giving is the toughest thing I have ever done. I have great disappointment over the results I was able to produce. I even did Hyperbarics. I am struggling with excepting that I will never have my wife as I new her and rediscovering my own needs and wants.

    Reply

  6. January 11, 2018 at 10:24 am | Posted by Barbara Jenkins

    This was a great reminder, and very useful tips. Thanks!

    Reply

  7. June 28, 2017 at 2:11 am | Posted by Judy Rippengale

    Thanks so much for the Optimistic Tips. I relate to many of the points and the tips are encouraging. I am Caregiver to my sister who is disabled with cerebral palsy and mental health issues. I attend monthly support group meetings with the Family Caregivers of BC group, and am wondering if I could take copies of this article to give to other Caregivers (mostly for parents/spouses). I notice a copyright for Home Instead so knew I needed to ask.

    Reply

    • June 28, 2017 at 9:52 am | Posted by Home Instead

      You are most welcome! So glad you found the tips useful and encouraging. We will email you separately regarding use of the article with your support group. Hope you have a great day!

      Reply

  8. June 20, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Posted by Sonya Crayton

    My sister would share the responsibility of caring for our mother but she died suddenly of a massive heart attack ( Dr. Evelyn Odunsi) I miss her more than words can say. My younger brother is no help at all, I decided not to ask him anymore. After two years of trying mother just was approved for a home care provider. Yay!! My younger son helps tremendously I thank GOD for him. I know had my sister lived things would be so different. I do try not to dwell on it. I'm Trying to exercise every day and am always up for A good laugh. I want to do right by my mother she was a single parent very hard worker. I wish we had The chance to know one another. She was a registered nurse. She worked 60-70 hours a week sometimes. She had a series of strokes after she retired and when my sister died she took a turn for the worse Alzheimer's. It's like I have a third baby. I'll be getting help soon. Thanks for listening.

    Reply

  9. June 8, 2017 at 5:47 pm | Posted by Ghazala Chaudhry

    Thanks for the optimistic tips.

    Reply

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