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The Toughest Mission

By Trena Winans, Senior Services Education & Outreach Director

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear an interview with Rear Admiral Deborah A. Loewer, US Navy (retired.) This is a woman who rose through the ranks, including serving as Director of the White House Briefing Room; a position she held on 9/11. Her story was a fascinating one as she gave a play-by-play of what happened on that terrible day.

After retiring from service to our country, she moved back home to care for her mother, who by that time, was struggling with dementia. Of this experience she said, “I’ve had tough missions. This was my most difficult mission I have had in my life. Three and a half years of taking care of my mom. And it started with just becoming friends, and my mom was my best friend.”

Wow! It just goes to show that caregiving is a heavy weight for anyone. If you are caring for a loved one and feeling stressed and alone, just know that it is not your weakness, this is just an extremely difficult mission.

What can be done to alleviate some of the stress that accompanies caring for a loved one? Research leads us to several practices that can help. Habits that cultivate a more positive attitude can reduce both depression and anxiety. A recent study of caregivers who practiced several key behaviors echoes similar findings of positive psychology researchers on the general population.

  • Consider trying to incorporate some of these habits into your day:
  • Focus on the positive: No matter how hard the day, try to think of at least one thing to be grateful for. Better yet, write it down. Gratitude journals are a proven way to reframe your day to the optimistic.
  • Share it: Think of someone you can tell about positive events. Reliving a good thing helps you to savor and amplify its effect.
  • Applaud yourself: Make note of the skills you are developing and the strengths you are using. Give yourself credit for what you did well!
  • Fact check: Think of something that is driving you crazy! Now try to reframe your thinking about it. In what ways is this challenge temporary or small? How can your behavior make a difference? What is your person still able to do?
  • Do a kindness: Research consistently shows that the single greatest boost to happiness comes from doing something nice for someone else
  • Breathe: Take deep breaths. Slow down. Take a moment to step away when needed. Everyone needs a break.

Most of all, remember that you do not have to go it alone. Senior Services offers a range of services that can help make the “toughest mission” a little lighter. From Seasons to caregiver support groups and classes, to rides and meals, we are here for you.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take care of YOU first! Only then, do you have what it takes to care for your loved one.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers
Senior Services is offering an evidence-based program for those who are caring for a loved one called “Powerful Tools for Caregivers.” In just six weeks, this course can help you identify and manage the physical, emotional and financial challenges that family caregiving can present and connects you with other caregivers who are facing some of the same feelings and problems you may be facing.  Powerful Tools for Caregivers will be held on Thursdays, August 15-September 19, 10:00-11:30am at Senior Services, 4700 Dublin Ave in Midland. Click here for details.