Compassionate Caregiving

Laura Nissen

Do you recall when your kids were little, and you went to the doctor with Cheerios in your hair?

Well, that is how most caregivers feel, and often, that is how your loved one feels, too.

There is so much going on when caregiving is taking place that it really isn’t about beauty and fashion, but about putting your best look forward and feeling your best.

When you look your best and are taking good care of yourself and your loved one, it shows. When we feel our best we are optimizing our lives and living them fully.

There are two considerations that I would suggest regarding beauty and fashion when you are caregiving:

First, it really does make a difference for your loved one to always look their best.

When my husband was the caregiver for his mom and dad, he was so busy with their medical and financial needs that he needed to delegate some duties. I recall my husband delegating clothes, hair, makeup and seasonal decorations to me. I was so proud to be able to hold that job, and I took it very seriously.

When our loved ones have so much on their plate, they really don’t have the capacity to worry about their appearance. They are using their energy to just get through their days. Following are a few things that I was able to do and they represent a few ideas for your consideration:

· Be certain to have their wardrobe in excellent shape. They should have several changes of clothes that are their favorites. Discard clothing that has either seen a better day or does not present their very best look.

• Be sure to take your loved one to get his or her hair cut and styled. Who doesn’t feel like a million bucks when you have had your hair done by a professional?

• Make sure that they have their favorite care products.

• For a special treat, take them for a manicure or pedicure.

• Stay on top of their wardrobe by taking them shopping for a new outfit.

• Another special treat would be to get some new cologne, a new color of lipstick or maybe a new pair of tennis shoes.

• Help them with seasonal décor, if you can. Maybe consider a new spring wreath for the door. Or, unearth a favorite seasonal knickknack to highlight the special season.

You will find that these little things make your loved one feel good about themselves. When they feel good about themselves, they are more apt to be out and about in the world. They are excited about interacting socially with others.

Some seniors self-isolate because they don’t feel like they are presenting their best self to the world. This feeling is preventable with love and attention to the little things.

Second, it really will help you as a caregiver if you always look your best.

Often, at a caregiver support group, we see caregivers that are completely wiped out. They are exhausted, tired and overwhelmed. Many caregivers are sleep-deprived, eat poorly, fail to exercise, fail to rest when they are ill and often postpone their medical appointments. These are indicators that self-care might not be top of mind.

In my mind, it isn’t so much about beauty and fashion as it is about extreme self-care and taking good care of yourself. These ideas would apply in the caregivers case, too. We all know what it is like to look our best and feel our best. When we take good care of ourselves, we are more engaged in the world around us, and ultimately, we experience a higher quality of life.

Always put your best look forward, not to impress others but to impress and respect yourself.

Laura Nissen is a dementia specialist for Luther Manor Communities in Dubuque.

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