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Chaplain: Mary's Musings for Caregivers

By Mary Bridges, Salina Presbyterian Manor chaplain

If you know me you know I love to talk.  I am blessed to be a part of the Manor family where I have an opportunity to talk a lot.  I love talking with residents, staff, and families.  One of the things I try very hard to do is to encourage caregivers to take time for themselves.  My husband and I were caregivers for both our mothers and at the time we had children at home.  I think they called us the ‘sandwich generations.’  I know what it is to feel overwhelmed by all the things that need to be done. The first time we flew, it was to a family wedding.  We had my mom and my sister-in-law’s mom with us.  It was on that flight to California that I learned the most important thing about caregiving.  It was when they made the announcement, you know, the one that tells you, “In the event that the oxygen masks drop put yours on first.  Then assist small children or those with special needs who are traveling with you.”   You see the wisdom of this announcement:  You can’t help others if you can’t breathe.

Recently a resident at the Manor came to me and asked me for some tips and help for he and several friends who were struggling in their roles as caregivers.  While doing some research for information I came across this site* that I felt was very helpful.  Even though it focuses on the disease of Alzheimer’s and dementia these tips apply to all caregivers.  Take time each day to read them and implement at least one of them in your day.  Above all do not feel guilty for putting your oxygen mask on first.

These 12 Steps pop up on websites and blogs; people pass it along to their friends who are looking after someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s.  Fridge-worthy? It might be. It was written by Carol J. Farran, DNSc, RN, and Eleanore Keane-Hagerty, MA, in 1989 and is reprinted from:  The American Journal of Alzheimer’s Care and Related Disorders & Research, November/December, 1989, 4(6), 38-41.

12 Steps for Caregivers

Although I cannot control the disease process, I need to remember I can control many aspects of how it affects me and my loved one.  I need to:

  • Take care of myself so that I can continue doing the things that are most important.

  • Simplify my lifestyle so that my time and energy are available for things that are really important at this time.

  • Cultivate the gift of allowing others to help me, because caring for my relative is too big a job to be done by one person.

  • Take one day at a time rather than worry about what may or may not happen in the future.

  • Structure my day, because a consistent schedule makes life easier for me and my relative.

  • Have a sense of humor, because laughter helps to put things in a more positive perspective.

  • Remember that my relative is not being “difficult” on purpose, rather that his/her behavior and emotions are distorted by the illness.

  • Focus on and enjoy what my relative can still do rather than constantly lament over what is gone.

  • Increasingly depend upon other relationships for love and support.

  • Frequently remind myself that I am doing the best that I can at this very moment.

  • Draw upon the Higher Power, which I believe is available to me.

*Alz Live - For Those Who Care - Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregivers ... is a free, daily, digital lifestyle and news platform designed specifically for the unpaid family caregivers of Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

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