Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How To Care For Your Disabled Loved One Without Losing Your Sanity

It was another stressful evening when I was trying to cram too much into a short period of time before going out to eat with friends, and get my son fed too. "Why didn't I plan and prepare ahead!?" I know from many past experiences that if I don't prepare ahead, things tend to go haywire. So here I was again not following what I KNOW to be a good plan in relieving stress while caring for my son with special needs. As a result, I saw how my stress and short temper affected him as his muscles tensed and locked up from his dystonia.

Being the Mom and caregiver to our special needs son comes with many blessings as well as stressful challenges!

It is my hope that you will be able to learn some helpful tips in keeping your sanity while caring for your special needs child or disabled loved one. You will learn practical things to make life run more smoothly, as well as spiritual and personal ways to relieve stress. You will also learn when to get others involved to help.

There are many practical ways to relieve stress throughout the day while caring for a disabled person.

  • One thing I have found helpful is to focus on the here and now. For example, if I'm helping my son get a shower, I don't answer the phone or try to deal with another child's issue or demands. This has been a great stress reliever that goes right along with learning to say "no". Don't try to handle a lot at one time. Be fair to them and focus on their needs without other distractions. Take your time and don't be in a hurry. I don't like to be late for meetings or appointments, but my caregiving responsibilities have been a blessing in disguise at times when I am late. People generally are understanding. If I am in a hurry, I'm stressed and my son's dystonia becomes more pronounced and painful.
  • If you want to keep your sanity, learn to plan ahead for any task, big or small.While being a caregiver for a friend in cancer treatment last week I found that if I got up early and got certain things done before she got up, like preparing her bath and breakfast, making sure her notebook was ready , checking to see if her daily survival bag was packed and ready to go, setting out her meds, and making sure I had all the appointments and phone numbers for the day ready, things ran so much more smoothly.
  • Having certain basic routines are calming to your disabled loved one and helps keep your own sanity. We have certain things we do in the morning before school, after school and at bedtime. If we veer away from these routines it can sometimes cause chaos.
  • There are certain times of day when, no matter what, things are just plain hard! For me that is bedtime. I'm not a night person and bedtime can be excruciating sometimes! But one technique I've found helpful to my sanity is "one step at a time."
For example, I'll say to myself, "Step one. Take David to the bathroom." After that happens I'll say, "Step two. Get him on the stair lift." Etc. Breaking down those most difficult tasks really helps when caring for my special needs son.

Here are some personal and spiritual tips that can also help in keeping your sanity while being a caregiver.

  • I try to start each day with praise and thanks to God. It is because of His wonderful plan that I am even here and have the great honor of caring for my handicapped son. Starting the day by looking at the bigger picture of life and His purposes for me helps me to put everything in proper perspective from the start. Also putting my trust in the Lord and resting in the fact that He KNOWS and cares about every part of our lives is such a peaceful and wonderful thing! Throughout the day stop and give thanks. Put matters back in God's hands that you've somehow managed to take back.

  • Here is something so very important!Have you experienced an injustice, where someone has wronged you, hurt you, misunderstood you or done any of the above to your loved one? Forgive and forget! Showing others grace and mercy is a huge stress reliever! It is also an important way to take care of yourself which is my next point.

  • It is vital that you take care of yourself! How can we care for our disabled loved one when we are sick? By holding onto grudges and mulling over injustices we lower our immune system. Take the needed steps to keep yourself healthy.
  • Taking a walk outside is a great way to relieve stress and keep your sanity. It clears your mind, gets the blood flowing and the fresh air will do wonders.
  • Listen to invigorating or calming music. I personally like Chopin, Stevie Wonder, and some praise music.
  • Supplement your nutrition by taking a good wholefood multivitamin that has essential oils, a full array of antioxidants and a pure Omega 3. (Be sure to check for toxins or you may do more harm than good.)
  • Be sure to make time for YOU. Get out with a friend. Go window shopping. Read a good book. Take up a small hobby. (I like to crochet.) These are some ways to relieve stress and help keep your sanity too.

Do you know when and how to get others involved?

  • Sometimes socializing with other families with a similar situation can be helpful. We often meet other special needs families at the movie theater to give our kids a chance to socialize. It gives us an opportunity to get to know other parents, share info we've learned and to just let our hair down.
  • Sometimes we just need help.Knowing my limitations and knowing when to ask for help has really helped me keep my sanity. Don't be afraid or too proud to ask a friend or extended family member to help you occasionally. It will give them an opportunity to serve and they will be blessed. It is also important to search out help that's available through different services. For us, we will soon be looking into having a personal assistant for our son.
Although we do still have our stressful moments, I'm learning to minimize them by following the tips I have listed here. Apply what you've learned here and you will know how to reach out for help or when to get others involved. You will feel more peaceful and guilt free as you take care of your own spiritual and personal needs. The practical tips you can do on a daily basis will help you to keep your sanity as you are a loving caregiver for your disabled loved one.

Stay tuned for more helpful ideas!