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As a caregiver, you have to be focused not only on yourself and your needs, but also those of your loved one. Here are five things you should put your energy into, so that you can be successful as a caregiver to someone you love: 

It can be frustrating to find yourself hamstrung as a caregiver, without the normal freedom to put your energy towards your goals. It’s important that you create new goals for yourself that you can achieve, because you need to feel that you are not just treading water. Whether it’s learning something new about your loved one you never knew or finding a new skill to add to your job résumé, you can and must achieve positive steps in order to maintain a sense of self-respect, self-esteem, and self-worth. You may learn to cook new dishes that are heart-healthy or organize household tasks in a more efficient way, but appreciate your own efforts to do a better job when you succeed. 

 
Some caregivers get so bogged down in the day-to-day minutiae of being a caregiver that they fail to do anything when faced with more problems than solutions. That mole hill becomes a mountain that appears insurmountable. It’s easy to get behind when overwhelmed. By training yourself to act on cue, you can avoid some problems, solve some problems, and manage the unfixable with strategies that help you cope. 

 

Imagine a world in which you seem to be invisible. People do things to you and for you, as if you’re not there. You’re merely an object in the room. How would you feel? Powerless? Helpless? Unless your loved one has absolutely no mental capacity, he or she should always be included in the decision-making process. Don’t be quick to assume your loved one doesn’t care. If you really want to know how he or she feels about something and you’re willing to make changes when you can, put your communication skills to good use. Maybe it means shaking up the diet with new foods, taking a drive on a scenic road as a way to break up the daily monotony of home care, or even having family and friends visit more often, but there are a lot of positive things you can do not only to help your loved one cope better with the need for care, but also to help yourself. Who knows -- while your loved one is having a conversation with a visitor, you might even be able to get a few things done! 

Is it normal to feel stuck as a caregiver from time to time? Certainly you don’t have the normal freedom of movement or opportunity to choose in your own life. That’s why you must continue to find healthy ways to strive. Whether it’s acquiring a new skill you’ve always thought about pursuing or pushing yourself to meet a new challenge, do it. Can’t get out of the house? Do it anyway. If you love puzzles, put your mind to completing a puzzle book. If you always wanted to read classic literature, set aside a little bit of time each day to expand your horizons. Do you go to the gym every day? Work a little harder at a physical goal. When you meet it, congratulate yourself and move on to the next one. Think of this as your own private carrot-and-stick show. You’re moving yourself in a positive direction, motivating yourself to continue to grow. Good for you! 

Why should you attune yourself to your surroundings, your loved one’s needs, and even your own emotions? Because emotions are transient. How you feel at this moment in time depends on your perception of the situation, of the other people involved, and even of yourself. When you change your perception in positive ways, by using information to affect a more positive outcome, you are directly influencing your own emotions and outlook on life. You create your own positive vibe, and that, in turn, can help your loved one do the same, especially when you attune yourself to his or her capabilities. Empower yourself to do good things, but don’t stop there. Help your loved one to do the same.
 
Copyright 2014 Sara M. Barton
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