Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

Caregiving is a time-consuming responsibility that’s physically and emotionally draining. Sleep is a luxury enjoyed sparingly. Life is consumed by the care-recipient and self-care is seemingly non-existent. Observers emphasize the importance of self-care, but never volunteer time for its completion. Many caregivers are restricted to the confines of home and don’t have infinite self-care options. Few are allowed the time for walking or jogging nature trails. There are no gym visits or facials and massages. Every minute of the day revolves around the care-recipient’s needs.

How can time for self-care be integrated into your hectic schedule? Take advantage of available time during the day. Correctly utilizing brief moments allows for proper self-care management. Relieve stress and boost your confidence by practicing these beneficial self-care tips.

  1. Compliment yourself each morning. Compose a list of your best qualities. Read this list when in doubt of your self-worth.
  2. Perform an emotions self-check. Sit calmly for a designated amount of time and ponder exactly what you’re feeling. Document those feelings.
  3. Limit the negativity transpiring in your life. Eliminate people and social media serving no positive purpose in your current lifestyle.
  4. Look through a window and appreciate the surrounding natural environment.
  5. Let loose! Turn on your favorite tunes and get lost in the music. Learn to laugh and enjoy being you.
  6. Complete controlled breathing or moderate stretching exercises.
  7. Create an in-home exercise routine suitable for your time schedule and fitness level.
  8. Re-evaluate your diet and include healthier versions of the foods you love.
  9. Realize and document your thoughts and concerns. Suggest an open discussion with family and friends to voice your objections.
  10. Splurge and treat yourself to a favorite food, new wardrobe piece, or 10 minutes of alone time.
  11. Change your monotonous daily schedule by integrating one new activity.
  12. Find a secluded location within your home and sit in silence for a short moment. Block out surrounding sounds and concentrate on breathing.
  13. Walk outside or sit near a window and absorb a little sunshine.
  14. Indulge in a 10 minute power nap and return to caregiving refreshed.
  15. Circulate aromas throughout your home stimulating mood and senses.
  16. When given the opportunity, ask for and accept help.

Self-care is a lifestyle change involving consistent care of the mind, body, and soul. Bodily systems work in unison to create a physical, mental, and emotional balance. Integrating the mentioned tips into your daily schedule will alleviate everyday stress and improve self-confidence. Open your mind and allow yourself deserved care.

What self-care activities do you practice daily?

Respond by leaving a comment! Thank you for reading and take care! Please share!

How to Help a Caregiver

We caregivers are experts at keeping a “happy” face, even when times lack happiness and joy.  Our constant smiles and understanding give the impression everything’s always OK.  True feelings are pushed aside for the benefit of the patient.  We never ask for help because caregiving duties are solely our responsibility.  However, there are times when we need help, but don’t voice our feelings.

When asked if he/she needs help, a caregiver will often respond, “No thank you.  I have everything under control.  I appreciate the offer.”  How can you help a caregiver that refuses assistance?  Try indirect help.  Provide items or services that make their caregiving duties easier.

  1. Provide encouragement in the form of a card or casual conversation.  Show appreciation for their devotion.
  2. Caregiving is costly especially when living on a limited income.  Provide a gift card that can be used for everyday expenses.
  3. Most caregivers have very limited time for errands.  Volunteer to grocery shop or pick up medications.
  4. Balancing family and caregiving is difficult.  Offer free childcare services to the caregiver.

Directly assisting a caregiver in their own environment can be difficult.  Most have a set daily schedule.  Any deviation from this schedule can cause unwanted stress.  How can you directly help a caregiver without interfering with their daily schedule?  

  1. Prepare meals for both the patient and caregiver.  Deliver meals a few times per week.  When preparing meals abide by proper diet restrictions.
  2. Depending on the patient’s medical condition, homecare can involve massive amounts of laundry daily.  Volunteer to pick up and drop off laundry during the week.
  3. Offer transportation for medical appointments.  “Free” hours allow the caregiver to take a break and catch up with daily tasks.
  4. Provide RESPITE CARE.  Allowing the caregiver a short-term break from their daily monotonous schedule is beneficial.  The caregiver is able to enjoy activities outside of their duties, enabling them to de-stress and recharge.  A healthy caregiver can consistently provide quality care to the patient.

Caregivers can be stubborn.  This stubbornness will eventually lead to stress and burnout.  As a third-party, you can indirectly and directly assist the caregiving process by providing your time and services.  Don’t take “NO” for an answer.  Work behind-the-scenes and provide deserved support.  Thank you and good luck!

Eat the Sweets!

Fitness entered my life when I became my grandmother’s full-time caregiver 14 years ago.  My daily exercise routine allowed me to de-stress and clearly focus on my caregiving duties.  I wasn’t concerned with a 6-pack or diamond triceps.  Through the days and months, each daily workout became part of my strict schedule.  I began to notice concentration and endurance improvements.  The days didn’t seem so endless and my mood drastically improved.  I began to ENJOY physical fitness and being fit!  It provided stress relief, encouraged a healthier lifestyle, and gave a boost to my self-confidence.  However, I’m not addicted to fitness or healthy eating.  It doesn’t dictate my life.  I’m 5’6″, 125 pounds and can eat more than my husband.  I love food!  Especially CANDY AND DESSERTSBut, can you stay fit and still eat those delicious sweets?  YES, you can eat sweets and still have a beach body!

1.)  Create an Exercise Routine

Create an exercise routine that fits your schedule.  I allow myself 30 minutes each morning for exercise.  Why 30 minutes?  Initially, only 30 minutes were available during my hectic caregiving schedule.  But after trying various exercise routines, it was evident that I lost interest in the routine if it was longer than 30 minutes.  A half-hour each day works for me!

2.)  Mix It Up

Boredom is one of my biggest complaints when exercising.  The same daily routine becomes monotonous over time.  I recommend integrating different workouts into your schedule.  Take your routine outside….weather permitting.  Ride your bike instead of running your usual mile loop.  Variety is key to persistence and dedication during your fitness journey.  

3.)  Eat Health-IER

I’m not considered a healthy eater.  But, I try to eat healthier.  Many people are under the impression that becoming physically fit involves low carb diets and eating only celery and carrot sticks.  WRONG!  Becoming and staying fit is achieved by creating a balance between exercise and eating.  Your body needs carbs and fats.  Without these your body will become depleted and lack energy for everyday activities.  My advice….eat healthier versions of the foods you enjoy!

4.)  Splurge and Indulge

I’ve tried fad diets and eliminating sweets.  My end result….binge eating on any cookies, cakes, or ice creams available!  Eat the sweets, but in moderation.  My current fitness routine includes eating a delicious cookie before starting any workout.  I eat health-IER throughout the day.  Dinner is followed by my favorite mini candy-bar.  Sundays are reserved for a bowl of ice cream.  Including these sweets in my daily diet eliminates my carb and sugar cravings and keeps me motivated.  No binge eater here!

Striking a balance between the things you love and fitness creates an overall healthier lifestyle.  Who doesn’t want to feel better about themselves or be less stressed on a daily basis?  I want you to realize that you CAN be fit and still EAT the things you love.  Life’s too short not to indulge in sweet delicacies!  Thank you for reading!  Now go eat a cookie and start working out!  Take care and good luck!

‘Tis the CAREgiving Season: The holiday/caregiving balance.

I love the holidays!  Decorations, glowing fireplaces, winter wonderlands, Bing Crosby, and gift-giving.  Long chats with family of days gone-by and sounds of children laughing while opening gifts.  But, the holidays can also be a stressful period.  From long lines at the checkout counter and limited holiday budgets to delayed flights and burnt cookies….it’s not all holiday cheer.  Now, add caring for an ailing loved-one to the seasonal stressor list!  How can you de-stress, be a nurturing caregiver, AND enjoy holiday cheer? Maybe I can provide useful advice and keep your holidays merry and bright.

1.)  Exercise

Don’t neglect yourself.  Caregiving is demanding and time-consuming.  Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.  Exercise is easily neglected by NON-caregivers during the holidays.  Caregivers are no exception.  However, they tend to neglect themselves because of constant dedication to an ailing loved one….not for numerous holiday house parties.  Allow 30 minutes a day for de-stressing exercises.  I prefer yoga or pilates.  Both are mind and body exercises focusing on breathing and elongating muscles.  If you enjoy a more intense workout, try this 20 minute full-body at-home workout.  De-stressing and high-intensity workouts aid your focus and concentration.  After a long day of balancing caregiving duties, baking cookies, and gift wrapping, a mind and body cleanse is welcomed!

2.)  Embrace the Situation

Caregiving is positive not negative.  The amount of joy you bring to the patient’s life is immeasurable.  Embrace your current situation and enjoy time spent in the company of your loved-one.  Realize the gift of giving not receiving.  You give happiness to an individual who may have been hopeless without your unselfish devotion.  Making the best of a difficult situation benefits all involved.  The patient doesn’t feel like a burden and the caregiver feels appreciated!

3.)  Throw a Party

Holidays bring to mind thoughts of parties and family get-togethers.  Relatives reminiscing and laughing about their unique seasonal experiences.  However, because of a demanding schedule and lack of respite care, caregivers are often excluded from these holiday activities.  Bring the holiday cheer to you and throw a memorable party.  My grandmother and I loved having a small number of guests over on Christmas Eve.  It gives you and your loved-one an opportunity to socialize and enjoy the meaning of the holidays….togetherness.  Nothing beats a good party, so turn the music up and put on your dancing shoes!

4.)  Decorate

We’re all aware of our situations and the constant stress engulfing our lives.  Caring for an ailing loved-one can make the holidays depressing.  This may be his last Thanksgiving….She may not see the New Year.  Yes, the holidays can give you a heavy heart.  But, try not to dwell on the what-if’s and focus on the here-and-now.  I’ve found that decorating for the holidays lifts spirits and makes days more enjoyable.  Engage your patient in the festivities.  My grandmother loved handing me the decorations for our Christmas tree.  The joy and happiness seen on her face when the tree was finally lit is a memory I will forever cherish.  We turned a difficult situation into happy memories!

Caregiving brought new meaning to my holidays.  I was able to embrace togetherness and enjoy the small moments with my grandmother.  We often miss the joy and seasonal spirit of the holidays because of our fast-paced lifestyles.  Caring for my grandmother allowed me to slow down and appreciate the gifts around me.  Hopefully my caregiving tips will help you minimize stress so you can enjoy the holidays.  After all, you’re entitled to a little holiday cheer too!  Please share!  Take care and thank you for reading!

Pay your mortgage off early….on ONE income!

MORTGAGE.  One word included in many household conversations.  The mention of this sometimes unavoidable financial responsibility makes people cringe.  Paying off your home loan is a homeowners dream.  There’s no better feeling than walking through the front door of an OWNED home.  It’s mine….finally!  The process of paying off your home can be a long and stressful period….even for the most financially stable household.  How can you possibly live on one income and pay your mortgage off early?  I’m a new homeowner living on one income and this is my strategy for eliminating my monthly mortgage burden.

1.)  Buy What You Can Afford

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions individuals will make during their lifetime.  It takes careful planning and negotiating.  Your future goal is to pay off your mortgage; therefore, buy a home within or under your price-range.  Buy what you can afford!  It’s easy to lose focus when buying your dream home.  With so many homes on the market, it’s tempting to buy a home out of your budget.  After all, the mortgage would only be an extra $200 a month!  Don’t do it!  Buying more house than you can afford is decreasing your chances of PAYING your mortgage….forget paying it off early. My husband and I qualified for homes double our price range, but we knew our budget and what we could comfortably afford.  The amount of home you qualify for and can afford are drastically different.  Have a grasp on your monthly expenses before attempting the housing market.

2.)  Down Payment

You’ve now entered the housing market and hunt.  Homes have different financing options….which one do you choose?  Many will argue that the best way to create instant equity in a home is invest a minimum 20% down payment.  I agree.  It will decrease your monthly mortgage payment, eliminate the need for PMI insurance, and create equity.  It’s an excellent way to jumpstart your early mortgage payoff.  However, if a down payment is impossible, search for a zero down payment mortgage option.  Invest in sweat equity instead of instant equity.  With no down payment try to come in under budget when house hunting.  The saved funds can be used for future mortgage payments.

3.)  Eliminate Revolving Debt

Try to eliminate most of your revolving debt before tackling early mortgage payoff.  Credit cards, personal loans, car payments all contribute to revolving debt.  Decreasing or eliminating these amounts will make extra cash readily available for future mortgage payments.  I understand that some revolving debt is unavoidable, ie. car payments.  However, constant debt will hinder your mortgage progress.

4.)  Open A Mortgage-Only Bank Account

I chose to open a bank account that is dedicated solely to our mortgage.  Money is transferred into this account on a weekly basis according to our budget.  Our mortgage payment is readily available and temptation spending is eliminated.  Any extra money saved from our weekly budget is transferred directly into the mortgage fund.

5.)  Pay Extra Principle

You have a house you can comfortably afford, debt is at the bare minimum, and a mortgage fund has been established….let’s strategize and pay the mortgage off early.  Where is the extra cash coming from?  Your household budget!  You budgeted $1600/month for your mortgage, but actually pay $1500/month….$100 into the mortgage fund.  You allowed $200/month for utilities, but only paid $150 this month….$50 dollars into the mortgage fund.  The weekly grocery bill was under budget and you saved $15….mortgage fund!  At the end of one month, total your savings and contributions to the mortgage fund.  Apply that amount as extra PRINCIPLE on your mortgage payment.  It all adds up!

6.)  Amortization Schedule Calculator 

Still not convinced you can pay your mortgage off early on one income?  Find an online amortization schedule calculator and calculate your mortgage schedule for your existing loan.  Then, do the same calculation with an extra monthly principle payment of $100.  The interest saved will be incentive to start building that mortgage fund!  Right now, my husband and I are paying an extra $250/month toward the principle of our mortgage payment.  It doesn’t sound groundbreaking, but that small amount will enable us to pay our mortgage off  10 years earlier and save over $57,000 in interest!  Our goal is to OWN our home in about 7 years.  It’s going to require some creative money management, but the reward is worth the challenge!

Hopefully I’ve offered some encouragement to single income homeowners.  A 30 year mortgage doesn’t have to last 30 YEARS!  After relieving yourself of unnecessary debt, tackle your monthly mortgage payment.  Save and contribute as much as possible to the principle amount.  If not monthly, then every other month.  Use an online amortization schedule calculator and understand the long-term effects of additional payments.  Paying off a mortgage early with only one income can be accomplished….convince yourself of the benefits.  Do you have any mortgage payment tips for single income households?  Leave them in a comment.  Was this post helpful?  Let me know!  Take care and good luck!

What? Only one income?

Having children, becoming a caregiver, health concerns, or divorce are scenarios that attribute to a single income household.  How can you survive with limited resources?  Divide your life into two categories….necessary and unnecessary.  List everything that is either necessary or unnecessary to live.  Put monetary values on your necessary items. The total of these items becomes your family budget.  Now you have a starting point for living on one income!  Budgeting household expenses is vital in a limited income household.  Every dollar should have a purpose.  From food, electric, and gas to clothing, coffee, and Chinese takeout…each dollar is budgeted!  You’re reading this article because you’re preparing for the financial struggles of living on one income.  It’s difficult and stressful, but doable.  With the correct strategy and mindset, it can be achieved.

1.)  Learn To Cook

Yes….learn to cook!  Once you choose to live on one income, eating out becomes a luxury and falls into the unnecessary category.  Besides, home cooked meals are more tasty! Shop sale ads from your local grocery stores and make an itemized list.  This helps avoid impulse shopping and keeps you on budget!  Buy off-brand or bulk products when it’s more cost-effective.  Shop weekly instead of daily.  Your bank account will thank you!

2.)  Brown-Bag It

Whichever spouse is earning the income should consider brown-bagging it!  My husband and I save $100 a week using this concept.  One of the perks of home cooking is LEFTOVERS.  They make GREAT next-day lunches!

3.)  No Credit Cards

Credits cards are tempting.  And yes, I do have one for emergencies.  But, credit card debt is not welcome in a single income household.  You’re budgeting on necessities, not debt!  Charge now and pay later is a poor strategy when budgeting household expenses.

4.)  Negotiate Necessary Bills

Car and health insurance, electric and phone bills are necessities.  But, all provider companies are not created equal.  Contact your current providers and negotiate lower bills.  Current provider won’t negotiate? Shop around and find a more reasonable rate.

5.)  Try To Save….a little

Living on a single income tests your creative money management skills.  However, be sure to include an emergency savings fund in your budget.  Life has unexpected twists, so be prepared for those obstacles!

6.)  Have The Right Mindset

Be content with your future lifestyle before attempting a single income life.  Are you convinced that the rewards outweigh the struggles?  Can you give up your daily Starbucks coffee and night on the town to stay home with your children or care for your mother?  Are you willing to overlook that new car for a simple vacation?  You should be convinced of your answers before considering a limited income household.

My husband and I have successfully lived on one income for 11 years.  We live a simple and fulfilled life.  It’s not always easy, but definitely worthwhile!  As you adapt to your new lifestyle, you’ll create and utilize your own strategy for smart budgeting.  Add your money-saving tips by leaving a comment!  Thank you for reading!  Take care!

How to live on ONE income and still have a life!

Being a full-time caregiver was a very rewarding experience.  With that experience came sacrifice and creative budget management.  My caregiving journey has ended, but those acquired money management skills still resonate in my current lifestyle.  My husband and I currently live on one income.  We’ve had the opportunity to buy a house, travel, and raise two dogs.  How do we do it?  Let me explain!

I used my spare time while caregiving to develop my DIY skills.  Being handy around the house can be very budget friendly.  Since my husband was working, anything that needed to be fixed became my responsibility.  The sink leak that left our kitchen flooded couldn’t wait until the hubby got home from work!  Or, the washing machine hose that flew off and flooded the utility room!  Nope, that couldn’t wait either.  I decided learn handy skills and become a Mrs. Fix-It.  I wasn’t aware my self-taught skills would develop into a HUGE money-saver.  From house painting and floor installation to shutter and deck building….I learned to do them all.  The money we saved on these necessary homeowner projects was a pretty good sum.

When my caregiving duties had ended, my husband and I decided a change in scenery was needed.  Thus began the house hunt!  Buying a home isn’t easy and there are many options on the market.  But, stick to what you can afford!  We looked at beautiful homes, but realistically they were not in our budget.  Our magic number for a monthly mortgage was $1500….including taxes and insurance.  This number narrowed the playing field quite a bit, but nice homes were available on this budget.  We wanted a modest 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home with a basement on about an acre of land.  It took a few months of looking, but we found a nice home and location.  The catch?  It needed to be painted, new carpet in the basement….cosmetic updates.  My husband and I knew the updates and repairs were easy fixes, so we made an offer and three months later moved in!  We came in under budget on our mortgage….$1420!  Buy what you can afford!

Ok, we bought a house!  But, we’re not spending ALL of our time here, right?  The hubby wanted a travel via travel trailer and explore some of the states during his vacation time.  It wasn’t in our budget for a brand new one, but used RV’s can be a very affordable option. We found a travel trailer for sale by a private owner about 30 miles from our home.  The seller was the 2nd owner and it was very well-kept.  Again it wasn’t new, but we bought it for $4000!  We have explored 10 states so far!  Staying nightly in your travel trailer is approximately one-quarter to one-third the cost of staying in a hotel.  Huge savings!  While not lavish vacations, we enjoy the exploration.

I mentioned we currently have two pups.  We had three, but unfortunately one passed away 6 months ago.  I miss him dearly!  How do you save money with these wide-eye lushes?  PET INSURANCE!  Yes, pets become sick and need medical assistance just like humans.  We invested in health insurance and were very pleased with the results.  When my oldest pup was diagnosed with cancer the vet bills were excessive.  They totaled approximately $4000-$5000 in just a few months.  It may not seem like a lot to some, but it was to us.  However, with our insurance we were reimbursed 90% after the $250 deductible was met.  Yes, pet insurance is a good investment!

Most people are very aware of their household expenses budget, so I don’t like to dwell on the topic.  But, if you want to save a little more cash try buying off-brand products, making your own cleaning detergents, baking some homemade dog biscuits, growing your own produce in the warmer months, eating in instead of out, or set a holiday budget for gift buying.  My husband was astonished that we could actually own a home and have a life on only one income.  We’re not rich and famous, but we’re happy!  Living on one income is definitely doable, so do it!  Let me know other ways to successfully live on one income by leaving a comment!  Thank you for reading!