January 13th, 2021
“Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first, it means me too,” L.R. Knost
Staying well while supporting a loved one with MND takes real effort. Oftentimes caregivers’ own needs get put on hold because of the demands of the condition. The pandemic has also deprived families of key supports and social contact. As the COVID-19 crisis rumbles on, self-care has never been more important for caregivers.
In this piece I have listed five simple ways for carers to practice mindfulness (ABCDE). Read on to the end for an invitation to join online groups for MND caregivers.
For family and caregivers of people with MND, I also want to draw your attention to a study looking at online groups and how they can support MND caregivers. The groups are structured programmes, one session a week for six to eight weeks, and there are places available for the next round, starting at the end of the month. The groups offer a chance to meet others in a similar position and learn new skills. If you are interested and would like to hear more, I have included my contact details below and those of my colleague, Caroline Wheeler.
|Awe Walks||In a recent study, older adults who took 15-minute “awe walks” over eight weeks showed less distress in their daily lives. The walkers were encouraged to pay careful attention to the world around them, to take in the environment with “fresh eyes”. Besides mood benefits, the walkers also gradually took selfies that showed less of them and more of their environment! Try a weekly “awe” walk in your garden or on a street near your home.|
|When we are stressed, we can forget to fully breathe. Imagine that a birthday cake with candles is placed in front of you. You are getting ready to blow out the candles. Inhale deeply and hold for the count of 1, 2, 3, 4. Exhale slowly to blow out the candles to the count of 1, 2, 3, 4. Repeat.|
|Connect||Connect with the person you’re caring for and decide on priorities you can set together. Take actions that fit with what you value (e.g. quality family time), rather than focussing on outcomes. Connect with family and supportive friends. Tell them what you need. Don’t wait until you’re exhausted to ask for help.|
|Don’t Judge||If you’re supporting a family member with MND it’s natural to feel all sorts of difficult feelings; loss, frustration, fear … you are having to adjust to an ever-changing condition; allow that you might have a down day or even moments of overwhelming distress. Try not to judge yourself; instead try meeting yourself at your own door with compassion, saying “This is a moment of suffering. How can I take care of myself in this moment?”|
|Eat||It sounds obvious but busy caregivers can forget to stop and eat. Mealtimes can be difficult if you are worried about your loved being at risk of coughing or choking. Consider taking some meals at a quiet time when you can consciously slow down and taste your food.|
Dr. Ailín O’Dea is a Clinical Psychologist working in Beaumont Hospital and is a member of Professor Orla Hardiman’s team.