Self-Care Resolutions for 2020. Worry less and say goodbye to guilt – Denise Brown, Chicago, IL. “The need for better self-care among caregivers is a common but rarely-discussed challenge, because caregivers are often reluctant to speak up about their own health struggles,” says Scott Williams, VP & Head of Global Patient Advocacy and Strategic Partnerships at EMD Serono. For the past 15 years, Williams has also served as a distance caregiver for his mother, who suffers from a variety of chronic health issues. “As our research through the Embracing CarersTM initiative has shown, this lack of self-advocacy has a negative ripple effect on caregivers’ health. If caregivers don’t learn how to become more comfortable and confident in advocating for their own needs, they won’t receive the support they need to stay healthy as they care for their loved ones over the long term.”
As 2020 approaches, the new year is a perfect opportunity for caregivers to review their priorities and renew their commitment to self-care. To help, Embracing CarersTM ambassador caregivers have offered their personal experiences and advice to help their fellow caregivers strengthen their self-care habits. They include:
● Denise Brown of Park Ridge, IL, who was a caregiving expert long before she became a caregiver herself. In 1996, she founded caregiving.com to help those who care for a family member or friend. But when her parents began to require their own assisted care due to complications from bladder cancer and internal bleeding, Denise found herself living the same caregiving lessons that she had spent years helping others learn. “My resolutions for the new year are to worry less and say goodbye to guilt,” says Brown. “Carrying around those negative feelings uses up precious time and energy that I could be using to care for my family, my network of fellow caregivers, and myself!”
● Jon Strum, who spends hours commuting back and forth through Los Angeles each day to help care for his wife Jeanne, whose severe form of MS has required around-the-clock assisted care for 20 years. “Admitting that we need help as caregivers can be hard, because we don’t want to feel like we’re in over our heads,” says Strum. “But trying to do it all yourself will quickly lead to burnout. If I could offer one piece of advice for caregivers in the new year, it would be this: learn how to ask for the help you need, and learn how to be comfortable with accepting it.”
● Adrienne Glusman, who is one of 10 million Millennials across the U.S. serving as unpaid family caregivers for a loved one. In 2010, when Adrienne’s mother was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a neurodegenerative disease similar to Parkinson’s, it became clear that she would need regular care from someone she trusted: Adrienne. “Realistically, when it comes to self-care for caregivers, you may not have long stretches of time where you can just focus on yourself,” says Glusman. “But what you can do is practice self-care for five or ten minutes at a time. In just ten minutes, you can meditate, or you can journal out your feelings. Reclaiming even a small amount of time for yourself can help you be more mentally and emotionally present for your loved ones.” As for her own caregiving resolution for 2020, Adrienne is hoping to becoming more accepting of the things she can’t change: “I’m still learning how to embrace my mom’s ‘new normal’ and acknowledge the person she is now, vs. the person she used to be. I try to do this as best as I can, because it changes daily.”
● Pat Egan, who has cared for his mother and stepfather in Boulder, CO, during their battles with Parkinson’s, heart disease, and COPD, suggests finding ways to better organize (and pass) your time as a caregiver. “One self-care tip that a lot of caregivers may not think of is to get better organized,” says Egan, who has developed a number of scheduling and time hacks to manage his own caregiving duties. “There are so many calendar apps and scheduling tools that can help you reduce the stress of scheduling and managing your own obligations alongside your loved one’s doctors’ appointments, medication schedule, and medical records. The less time you have to spend on paperwork and loose ends, the more time you can spend doing the things that really matter.” When it comes to his own personal resolution for 2020, Egan again turns to technology: “My resolution is to find some podcasts to listen to just for fun! It helps all the time spent waiting in doctors’ offices pass much more enjoyably.”
According to the Embracing Carers™ Survey conducted in the United States in 2017 by Censuswide on behalf of EMD Serono, which questioned 504 unpaid/unprofessional caregivers aged 18-75 years in the US:
● 45% of unpaid caregivers surveyed in the US feel that their physical health has suffered as a result of their caregiver duties and nearly half (49%) have feelings of depression.
● 45% of unpaid caregivers surveyed in the US don’t have time to book or attend their own medical appointments.
● 57% of unpaid caregivers surveyed in the US find it hard to sleep on a regular basis.
● 51% of unpaid caregivers surveyed in the US don’t have time to exercise, and 46% have gained or lost weight as a consequence of caring for others.
For more information and resources for caregivers, including the Time Counts campaign from Embracing CarersTM that is helping to generate 1 million minutes of extra time for caregivers around the world, please visit https://www.embracingcarers.com/
Through its Embracing Carers program, EMD Serono will continue to share data and insights about the challenges of caregiving and offer solutions to help caregivers balance their needs at work, at home, and in service of their loved ones.
About Embracing Carers™: Embracing Carers™ is a global initiative founded by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, which operates its biopharmaceutical business in the U.S. as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma and EMD Performance Materials, in collaboration with leading caregiver organizations around the world, designed to increase awareness, discussion, and action about the often-overlooked needs of caregivers. Given that caregivers need support and often do not know where to turn for help, Embracing CarersTM was created to fill that void. www.embracingcarers.com