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15 Minutes Alone as a Caregiver: Protecting Your Own Time

Caregiver Tips for Self-Care That Require a Quarter-Hour…or Less!

The world of a caregiver revolves around unending demands. These demands may drain you emotionally, mentally and physically. But the biggest drag is on your time. How big? For many caregivers, just enjoying 15 minutes alone is an unimaginable luxury.

After all, you are your loved one’s eyes and ears. They depend on you to be their “voice” and interpret the world for them. Many people living with dementia have lost their sense of time, so if you are away for 15 minutes, they feel abandoned for an entire day. This dependency means they may want you around – and in sight – 24/7.

15 Minutes to Refresh

Let’s say you are the caregiver for a parent with dementia. They may be anxious and follow you from sunrise until long after dark. You do your best to manage your emotions and remain patient. Still, you have needs of your own. How, where and when do you create space to breathe?

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Caregiver burnout is real and can lead to serious problems for your emotional and physical health. Rather than continuing to ignore the growing stress, acknowledge it. Then pledge to do something about it. If you need an excuse to take care of yourself, remember that the person you are looking after will suffer if you don’t.

Developing a Self-Care Strategy

Your dream of 15 minutes alone can become reality. Ask yourself: Do you need to be physically separate from your loved one to practice self-care? Is this even possible? If not, can you take care of yourself while you’re in the room with them? Are there options to do it together? Your answers will help you choose the right approach.

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15 Minutes for Yourself…While You Care for Another

Can you really take 15 minutes for yourself while in the same room with your mother or father? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.

If you are caring for a parent or spouse, you may get so task-focused that you forget about your own well-being. Try these approaches when you are together:

  • Develop a breathing practice. After all, you need to breathe anyway! There are many possibilities for breath work. You can do these with anyone present, and breathing techniques improve heart and brain health.
  • Try mindfulness. The only requirement for this simple form of meditation is the willingness to sit still and watch your thoughts. Developing a healthy detachment from the challenges of the moment could be just the care you need.
  • Listen to music. Share the joy of music together, or don a pair of headphones and listen while you watch mom or dad.
  • Read. Depending on the situation, you could dip into a novel. Keep reading material or your favorite device handy.
  • Exercise. If your parent is able, you can do some simple exercises together. Or, bring an exercise mat into the room and perform floor exercises right there.
  • More togetherness ideas. Other ideas for creating some chill time during care time include jigsaw puzzles, watching TV, or even having “tea time” — a daily ritual can you share with your parent.

Out of Sight but Still On-Site

When you are a caregiver you are taking care of someone else. Here are five ways to steal 15 minutes alone in a spare room:

  • Take a power nap. A short nap will refresh you, and won’t interfere with your evening sleep.  Even if you can’t (or don’t want to) fall asleep, you can still rest and collect your thoughts.
  • Do floor exercises.  Stretching, yoga and aerobic exercise can all be performed in a confined space.
  • Talk to a friend.  Can you spend your 15 minutes on the phone with a friend? If you’re able to set time to do this in advance, great! If that’s not practical, pick up your cell and phone someone to share how your day is going.
  • Meditate or pray. Many caregivers find that a short break to reconnect with their spiritual life can, well, lift their spirits.
  • Take a video vacation. Go online and find a channel that features relaxing scenes and music. Here’s one you might try, The Five Minute Vacation:

An Outside Chance at 15 Minutes Alone

Do you have the option to go to a park, garden or natural area?

  • Walk. Take a few minutes for a brisk stroll. If it’s on a city street that’s totally fine. But if you have access to a park or a beach, all the better. If the weather and environment is right, you can even try a technique called earthing, which means walking barefoot. Some studies show that walking sans shoes reconnects us to mother earth and satisfies our soul…and soles.
  • Just sit. Take a seat someplace and drink it all in. That might mean a park bench or a patch of grass or a local coffee shop.

For more about caregiver self-care for people who give their all to their loved ones, take a long slow deep breath — then contact Home Care Assistance:

  1. Napping, from The National Sleep Foundation
  2. 10 ways for caregivers to nurture themselves