PA R E N T I N G
Taking Time FOR
written by OLIVIA LOUNSBURY CLINICAL RESEARCH COORDINATOR PATIENT SAFETY MOVEMENT FOUNDATION Navigating an ever-changing landscape has emphasized the importance of self-care and mindfulness. It is no surprise that parents have been among those most impacted by the pandemic. Alongside the typical stressors, such as ensuring proper nutrition, guidance, exercise, development and education for their families, the pandemic has introduced a whole new set of challenges. Parents are now not only expected to maintain their dayto-day responsibilities, but adjust to working from home, home-schooling and in many cases, caring for family members, including grandparents or those at greater risk for coronavirus. If a loved one enters the health care system, the caregiver often cannot be there, which can create feelings of helplessness, fatigue and burnout for parents seeking answers and facing challenges. Many activities parents typically rely on for self-care, such as spas, fitness centers and community centers, were closed or unavailable during the pandemic, further highlighting the importance of easily accessible self-care. The Patient Safety Movement Foundation, a global nonprofit working to reduce preventable harm and death due to medical errors around the world, recently presented “Family Caregivers: Caring for Yourself and Your Loved One” during National Patient Safety Awareness Week. The following are key recommendations for self-care, particularly for parents and caregivers:
Recognize that taking care of yourself is not selﬁsh. Selfcare for the caregiver is often put on the back burner and compromised with excuses of, “It’s not about me” or “I’m not the one who needs care.” While these excuses might hold up for a while, caregivers inevitably need to take time for themselves. Routinely, taking time of yourself can open you up to provide better care for your loved one.
Ask for and/or accept help. The “and/or” is necessary because caregivers might not ask for help. It is up to others close to the caregiver to step up, recognize that the caregiver is struggling and offer to provide support. It is not selfish or weak to accept assistance when it is offered and needed. Accepting help will allow you to focus your energy and attention on other priorities. Ideally, you should ask for help as soon as it is needed. Doing so takes mindfulness and practice, so we recommend starting by asking for help with small tasks to build comfort.
Stay connected. It’s easy to get tunnel vision about a loved one’s care. Staying connected can help. Think back to times in your life when you’ve been stressed or struggled and recall which interactions helped you move forward. Identify similar people who are in your life who might be able to offer the same type of comfort. Call an old friend, join a community group or jump on a Zoom call with your family. Regardless of the method, it is important to remain connected.
Remember to address your physiological, basic needs. Maintain adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise. Even simple breathing exercises can go a long way in calming the body before sleep or eating. Exercise does not have to be rigorous. Take a walk for physical and mental wellness. Throughout the pandemic, we have learned that self-care is essential to prevent burnout, fatigue and stress. Being good to yourself helps you be at your best for your loved ones when they need you most.
See the Patient Safety Movement Foundation’s advocacy page for more information: patientsafetymovement.org.