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Caring for another person, whether it be an older parent with dementia or a spouse with cancer, can be a challenging and overwhelming responsibility.  Often, caregivers are simultaneously dealing with their own health or socioeconomic issues, compounding the stress of caregiving, which can lead to a wide range of emotions (frustration, anger, resentment, guilt, loneliness, and sadness).

Despite facing these often negative, conflicting emotions on a daily basis, a caregiver has the potential to take charge and alter the trajectory of the situation for the better.  We may not be able to change certain situations, but we sure can change how we view and respond to them. We have been blessed with the gift of choice so why not choose happiness so we can experience contentment? Happy, less stressed caregivers possess the physical and emotional resources to provide more satisfying and compassionate care to their loved ones.

It sounds easy enough but how does one accomplish this? Start by making a promise to yourself.  Once you’ve committed to the task at hand, use the following tips as a guide:

  1. Focus on your own well-being first. Maintain your own personal social network and support system. Whether this be joining a group of friends for regular coffee dates, or a reliable person whom you can call on to provide some occasional respite.
  2. Look for and recognize the good, not the bad. Acknowledge and compliment your loved one (and yourself!) for strengths. Focus on the blessings in life versus the ‘raw deal’.
  3. Incorporate humor. Ever heard the expression ‘if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry’? Simply laughing through a difficult situation with your loved one may help ease the discomfort and stress you are both experiencing.
  4. Give or receive a hug. A gentle, loving touch speaks volumes and reduces tension.
  5. Baby steps. One day at a time. Relish the success of the accomplishment, whether big or small, take in the joys of the event but don’t be too harsh on yourself if you falter. Everyone has a bad day; just address it and start afresh.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

~Maya Angelou