You hear it all the time from well-meaning friends, family and even healthcare professionals – Are you practicing self-care? What defines “self-care”? Does it only apply to care partners or should those living with LBD also practice self-care?
So… What is self care?
Self-care is deeply personal. What one person finds to be energizing may drain you and what you find soothing might bore someone else. What remains universal is its purpose – promoting your overall wellbeing and health, physically and mentally. The reality is, when you are providing care to another person or dealing with your own care challenges, preventative self-care takes a backseat. While taking the time and making the effort for routine healthcare appointments, exercise, or healthy eating might not seem like a high priority, the opposite is true. You cannot run on an “empty tank,” and you cannot expect to feel good when you are neglecting your own basic physical needs.
Now that you have renewed the commitment to caring for your body, let’s talk about your mental wellbeing. Lewy body dementia brings many changes to the lives of those living with a diagnosis and their care partners. Social events, hobbies, and other “non-essential” activities are often forgotten or seen as frivolous and selfish. Participating in events or taking time to engage in a favorite hobby may not seem vital to your wellbeing, but it is exactly what you need to promote your mental health.
For those living with LBD, you might feel as if you can no longer engage in your favorite pursuits. Maybe you can’t do things the way you used to – but you can adjust expectations or make modifications. If you used to be an avid runner, you might try walking. If you are having trouble keeping up with the reading for a book club, there is no shame in listening to audio books. Instead of meeting up with friends at a crowded restaurant, suggest a quieter location where there are less distractions. It might take some creativity to find workarounds for your favorite activities, but you deserve to continue enjoying these pleasures despite your diagnosis.
Creating time for self care
Admittedly, finding time for self-care is the most challenging part. Challenging, but necessary. Statistics show a significant percentage of caregivers will become seriously ill or die before the person they are caring for. The copious amounts of stress placed on the caregiver, as well as self-neglect, are often contributing factors. Avoid this by prioritizing self-care. Make arrangements for you to take the time to attend to your own wellbeing to ensure you can provide care without it taking an irreversible toll on you. Enlist family, friends, or paid respite to allow you to take this time for yourself, if needed. Try setting self-care goals for yourself every month and bolster your mental and physical health in doing so.
A significant amount of time, effort, responsibility, and emotional exertion goes into caring for others, but you cannot pour from an empty cup. This National Family Caregivers Month, make sure the care partner in your life takes a moment to assess their physical and emotional state and take the steps needed to prevent potential burnout by engaging in acts of personal self-care.
It’s true, self-care is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being a care partner for someone living with LBD. Learn more about the effects of long-term caregiving to understand why this prioritization is necessary. Our page for Caregivers is a great resource for those caring for a loved one with Lewy.
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