Providing S.M.A.R.T. Care
Updated: Jan 10
Need to press reset on your care practices? Time to bring in some S.M.A.R.T.er ways to juggle your care role with the other roles in your life? We got you!
What you might be feeling right now.
Care situations come with a considerable amount of strain, specifically negative effects on one's physical, mental, and social health. These include:
an increased risk of depression
decreased quality of life
feelings of personal burden
feelings of frustration
feelings of helplessness
feelings of anger
negative effects on family caregiver finances, due to high out-of-pocket spending for families
Elder care needs are incredibly complex and ever-changing in nature. They are persistent and require a high level of vigilance, meaning you never stop thinking out it! This often results in high levels of unmet personal needs.
There are ways to change some of the bad feelings above to more positive ones. Let me make clear right away, this is NOT your typical self-care messaging.
Caring for a loved one is a personal experience and it looks different for every person. What is common for everyone is how demanding it is.
You are pressed for time.
You are juggling multiple competing priorities.
You have more roles in your life than just caretaker to your loved one.
So I won’t tell you to take long baths, fit in regular trips to the gym, or any activities that you simply don’t have the time to do. I also won’t tell you that you’re failing to practice good self-care if you aren’t doing those types of things. I WILL share more strategic ways to realistically claim some time back for yourself and make care a more positive experience.
Being a badass!
While we are pressing reset, why not take it to another level! I’ve partnered with Erin Galyean from Badass Advocate for this post. She took her care experience and wrote the book on being a Badass. Her message of advocating for your loved one, yourself, and even others is one I can get behind!
You may feel that your own priorities are getting put on the back burner. Most individuals caring for a loved one WANT to tackle something for themselves, but when it comes down to it, there just isn’t enough time. Don’t give up! Accomplishing the things that are important to you might look different, require a different route, or take more effort to accomplish now that you are caring.
Why is goal setting a powerful activity?
You may be surprised to know that goal-setting has been an interesting topic of study to psychologists for a long time. In my personal background and study in education, goal-setting is something I studied.
There is actually a theory known as goal-setting theory which speaks to how the action of setting goals changes our actions. It is proven in research that individuals who set goals perform better than those that do not.
Five principles for good goal-setting.
Make your goals CLEAR - a very specific goal that you can measure is more likely to be accomplished than a vague one.
Make your goals CHALLENGING - you want just enough difficulty to keep your brain motivated and interested, while still being able to achieve milestones within your goal.
Be COMMITTED - you should put measures in place to stay accountable. This part pulls in motivational theory, which put simply, speaks to how we are motivated both within ourselves and by outside influences. Think of it like a scale, if our internal motivation is low, we need to amp up the external motivators to stay on track. Consider telling friends about your goal or posting on social media so you can be cheered on. Find an accountability partner to check in with regularly and talk about the challenges and successes you’re having.
BREAK IT UP - to keep our internal motivation alive, we have to feed it. Break your goal up into milestones that you can hit at regular intervals. Each time you succeed your brain feels rewarded and stays motivated for the next milestone.
Erin’s Badass Tip: Make sure you create some goals purely focused on you and what you want to accomplish in life. Your life already focuses heavily on caring for someone else, so it is important to create a few goals that have nothing to do with your caregiving duties.
You likely don’t have even an hour to give yourself some days. That’s okay. Break free from the traditional self-care model and think more creatively. Here’s an example.
Most days my calendar is fully booked. I go from task to task, meeting to meeting, trying to fit in everything I need to do. Most days I end up exhausted and completely drained by 6pm. So, I started incorporating “Brain Breaks”. I went through my schedule and added in mini-breaks, 15 minutes to just switch off for a bit. I use these times to walk around the house, look outside, maybe go outside, or play some music. I don’t worry about emails or my to-do list, I just give myself this time to relax my brain and do something enjoyable.
Check your schedule for these hidden opportunities to create some mini-moments for yourself.
Erin’s Badass Tip: Before the week starts, review your calendar. Find slots where you can set aside time for yourself. If we plan ahead, we can all find a mini-moment each day for ourselves. We must make these moments a priority. Once you have found some open time slots for self-care, treat it like an appointment you cannot cancel.
You are with your loved one often and while caregiving is a loving act, the day-to-day can be frustrating. We’ve covered a lot of the emotions that come with caregiving and because of the vigilance and time required to care for an elderly loved one, it’s easy to fall into an emotional rut.
We all know about journaling. Sometimes we romanticize it though. We imagine sitting with a steamy cup of tea, nuzzled in a corner full of pillows with our leather journal and fountain pen. That’s not super realistic. Use whatever you like, sit wherever you want, but do this one thing; be raw. The goal is to gain perspective and if you aren’t honest when you write, you won’t get the benefit.
“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” ~ Natalie Goldberg
Erin’s Badass Tip: While journaling, take a few minutes to write down at least one thing you are grateful for and why. This habit can help you see the good things when life seems bleak.
© 2023 Elder Care Solutions
In 2020, Erin published her first book, Badass Advocate: Becoming The Champion Your Seriously Ill Loved One Deserves. By sharing what she’s learned, she can help other family caregivers to be Badass Advocates.
In the book she shares an effective morning routine (named Five Rs) to help caregivers better balance self-care with patient care. In 2021, she published 4 journals to guide caregivers through the Five Rs. There are 4 journals: three 30-day journals (Cobalt Blue, Coral Pink, and Rose) and one 90-day journal. Each journal includes reflection questions, inspirational quotes, gratitude corners, mind maps, and more! These journals are a thoughtful gift for anyone dealing with a loved one's illness.