To close friends, I’ve been known to describe myself as a 70-year-old woman running a 2-patient hospice in my house. I have a 91-year-old husband on palliative care, and a 20-year-old cat who seems to be using up her nine lives very slowly. In this household hospice, I’m the nursing department, the nutrition department, the transportation department and of course, the housekeeping department. Both patients need considerable time and attention.
In addition, I’m the only one here who does the thinking (planning, preparing, anticipating, evaluating). For my husband, it’s an illness that prevents any serious rational output (Alzheimer’s disease) for the cat, it’s habitual self-preservation that serves as her auto-pilot default, behavior (Eat, Sleep, Stretch, Poop, repeat).
I have a lot on my plate. Many of my fellow-coaches talk about establishing a morning routine that is part of their self-care process. Their discussions usually involve rituals like warm baths, reading, meditating, journaling, taking a walk and/or a brief yoga practice.
I long for that as well, but here are the many chores that already serve to launch my day:
- Take my medication (a thyroid supplement that has to be taken alone).
- Check-in on SNUG, an app that serves as a safety/welfare check.
- Meditation with Holosync – recordings with binaural sound waves & affirmations (1-hour).
- Morning ablutions & dress for the day (Yoga? Business? Weather-appropriate?).
- Set our Hubby’s clothes (on days he needs to go outside our home – like to adult daycare).
- Help him dress (which is a diminishing capability in this new year).
- Serve the cat her morning food (with medications added three days each week).
- Turn off outdoor lights (which have been “on” since dusk the previous day).
- Administer Hubby’s medications (fortunately, he doesn’t need many!)
- Serve Hubby’s coffee/breakfast – usually a very simple meal.
- Take my own supplements (calcium & fish oil)
- Check my schedule for scheduled meetings, events or other commitments, virtual or in-person.
And that’s just MORNING chores. All this consumes the first two hours (or so) of my day. And that’s mainly for days that have no surprises like medical appointments, snowstorms or urgent car repairs. When you live in a household where you are the only one actively thinking about what needs to be done or what’s scheduled for the day, you’re pretty much on your own for remembering it all!
I tell you all this not to ask for sympathy, but to let you know, I understand YOUR day if you’re also a family caregiver. You may very well be the primary person (only person?) responsible for most everything that is accomplished in your home and of course, ALL of the things that don’t get done!
Parents understand this. They go through this sort of routine every day as well. But the good news there, is that in most families, the kids grow up, start to take on some responsibilities for themselves and can actually, in time, contribute to the efficiency of household operations. You have growth and change to look forward to!
For family caregivers, the trajectory is headed the other way and over time, the number of chores the caregiver must attend to will only increase. It can be both overwhelming and exhausting!
So what’s the self-care remedy that can help get you (and me too) off the conveyor belt of our every-day “to-do” list and help us function in a less-stressed, healthy rhythm in our daily lives? For me, the formula is three-fold:
- Defining my ENOUGH which simply means making my own decisions about what I can tolerate postponing, or maybe just taking OFF my list – what will satisfy me as sufficient, without adding stress to my day (which just makes me a very irritable caregiver!!)
- Simplifying the chores which for me includes strategies like repetitive meal plans, well-organized bathroom supplies and laundry as an over-night agenda (fill the washer before bed, swap to dryer in the morning).
- Self-compassion when things fall through the cracks, and they always do! Because in life there is no sense in pursuing perfection, only progress!
If you’re the primary thinker and doer in your household, I want you to know I completely understand how exhausted and worn-down you might feel. I urge you to consider my three-part remedy because whatever makes YOUR life easier, will inevitably make your loved-one’s life better! Simplifying your plans, your tasks and your routines can only serve to make your burden lighter.
Wishing you a calmer season ahead.