For the Caregiver: 8 Gifts to Give Yourself

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As a caregiver, it's easy to become emotionally empty and exhausted, despite the privileges and rewards of caring for a family member or a friend. Signs of caregiver overload are very common. Do yourself and your loved one a favor by being proactive and giving yourself a checkup in this area to see how you're doing. And remember that it's imperative, not just nice, to give yourself a break periodically.

With that in mind and as the holidays approach, your birthday nears, or you just need a pick-me-up, here are eight gifts you can give yourself:

  • Schedule a Massage:

    Aahhhh. Just the word sounds relaxing. If you're constantly on the go, arrange a therapeutic massage for yourself. It can work wonders on your muscles and your mind.

  • Laughter:

    Go ahead, laugh. Did you know that laughter can make you healthier? The benefits of laughter are many; in fact, you might even want to try laughter yoga.

  • Permission to Share the Load:

    Contrary to what you may have told yourself, you don't have to do it all alone. Whether you are in this role out of choice, obligation, necessity or a combination of all three, support and resources are available to help you. Consider allowing others to assist you from time to time.

  • A Good Book:

    When's the last time you read a book for enjoyment? Can't remember? While it's very helpful to read about Alzheimer's disease if you're caring for a loved one with dementia, you might also choose one book to borrow from the library or to purchase that's completely off-topic and fun. If you're not sure where to start, ask around for suggestions from people who know you and the type of books you enjoy. Reading a great book can be a luxurious, inexpensive therapy at times.

  • A Brisk Walk:

    Okay, I know that may sound less than exciting, but the benefits of walking are many. Physical exercise has been associated with a decreased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, and it also releases endorphins which are great for decreasing stress and rebooting your patience level with your loved one. Caring for someone with dementia or another illness is a wonderful privilege, but it can also be challenging, especially if your loved one exhibits some difficult behaviors. Provide yourself with the gift of an active, healthy body.

  • A Physical Check-Up:

    Again, perhaps not the gift with the most bells and whistles, but a very important one. If you're like many caregivers, you may be pretty occupied with the care of your loved one. When's the last time you had a routine preventative doctor's visit? If it's been awhile, go ahead and make that appointment. Identifying health concerns when they're minor ensures early treatment and can prevent other medical complications. This allows you to hopefully remain healthy so you can continue to care for your family member.

  • Music:

    While there are many benefits from music for people with dementia, you don't have to have Alzheimer's disease to reap the rewards. Music has many positive effects ranging from from stress relief to intellectual stimulation. Whether you choose to purchase the latest recording from your favorite artist or decide to learn to play a new musical instrument, music is a powerful gift.

  • Peace of Mind:

    Hard to find at times, peace of mind for caregivers is invaluable. One way to help you get there is to ensure you've addressed some legal and financial matters that people with dementia might encounter. This includes a living will, power of attorney for healthcare decisions, knowledge of how paying for long-term care works if it's ever needed, familiarity with in-home options like home healthcare, and identifying and deciding potential end of life decisions.

    While some of these topics may be difficult to work through, the knowledge that you have a plan in place that's in accordance with your loved one's wishes can go a long way toward easing your mind and your heart.

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