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  • Writer's picturePatty Hopker

5 Ways a Caregiver is Like a Professional Athlete

My hands-on experience as a professional caregiver is limited, but I have provided emotional support to many. I started as a certified nurses’ assistant (CNA) when I was very young. It allowed me to support my family while my husband went to college.

Even though this experience helped me decide that I didn’t want to be a Registered Nurse, as I had previously aspired, it provided me with a wealth of information and techniques that I used later in life.

Caregiving taught me how to be a better mother to my children. Caregiving taught me how to provide and manage care for my husband through his years of battling cancer. Supporting my father with the care of my mother, who had Alzheimer’s, was more effective. Through all these life experiences, I had better insight during my professional career as a consultant for senior care issues. I also witnessed the pain and suffering caregivers can go through if they aren’t attentive to self-care routines.

What I have always been aware of were the similarities between caregiving and professional athletes. When caregivers respect their bodies and organize their work more like athletes, it is a win-win for everyone involved.

My Best Advice

Using skills that professional athletes use helped me develop a system for myself and those I served. I was able to remain strong and healthy to weather whatever storm came up for any given day. These are the 5 steps I would remind myself of daily to survive.

1. Take Responsibility for Our Bodies

Athletes are meticulous about what they eat and what they drink. They don’t work out every other day or twice a week, but they dedicate their lives to taking care of their body every day. An athlete who is getting ready to perform doesn’t enter the race cold. An athlete must warm up with stretching and continue muscle resistance for top performance.

During times of high stress, it is crucial to consume nothing but power food as a caregiver. Fresh vegetables, whole grains, quality proteins, with lots of water.

We cannot do for others without doing for ourselves first. Those of whom we are providing care will do so much better if we feed everyone in this way as well. There are all the benefits of making an exceptionally healthy diet to feed everyone’s bodies. It does start with food.

Fresh air and an exercise routine is another area that everyone’s bodies need. When we find a way to stretch, lift some light weights, get outside for a quick walk around the block, we are keeping our spirits up and our blood flowing.

Exercises that many caregivers assist their people with are just as beneficial for the caregiver. A caregiver who is getting ready to perform must warm-up stretching and continue muscle resistance for top performance. When there is no exercise, injuries happen.

2. Have Realistic Expectations

Before an athlete enters any competition, they have a clear view of the environment, the game’s rules, their abilities, and their expectations. They know their teammates and a positive, optimum attitude and determination.

Caregivers enter every day with the need for optimum performance, but sometimes little support is offered or available. But, caregivers cannot do it all alone.

Everyone has their talents and abilities and can work together for the benefit of the care receivers. Everything an athlete needs, a caregiver needs as well.

Caregivers must research the environment, know what parameters of the care receiver’s needs. They need clear Instructions from experts and coaches for the medications and care of the care receiver. Everyone needs to put forth their best efforts and use each individual’s talent. Documenting what we expect to accomplish every day in the form of a schedule is so important. Getting to know where there is support and resources for every team player is vital. Being open to and having all this gives oxygen to having an optimum attitude and space for healing.

3. Communicate Effectively

Athletes need to communicate when something is painful or emotional or when their personal lives interfere with their performance. Sometimes it’s a scary experience because it can be interpreted as a weakness when it is a strength.

A caregiver must communicate with family members, friends, health care professionals, coaches, and the care receivers. Sometimes this is extremely difficult, so seeking support is beneficial.

Continually assessing other’s situations and our own provides definitions of problematic areas. Problems conveyed to the appropriate expert allows solutions to happen.

4. Reach Out for Help

When athletes come up against a problem, they meet with their coaches, mentors, and experts to define the issues and solutions. After receiving the expert knowledge, they can move forward with lightning speed. If the athlete does not seek experts’ help, there is a risk that the problem will linger and become worse.

Professional athletes look to their head coaches to win--so do caregivers. Caregivers must figure out who the best head coach for your situation will be, create a written plan and assign tasks using all resources available. It’s crucial that caregivers not wait until they are overwhelmed or exhausted or their health fails.

5. Goals--We All Need Them

The only goal of an athlete is to win. What they win at is variable. Sometimes they want to win the race. Sometimes they want to decrease their time or increase their score. Even as a team, each individual perfects their personal best for the benefit of everyone.

Caregivers are no different. Sometimes, the goal is not to help a person get better but to comfort them. More often than not, you can’t solve a person’s problems, but you can be there for them.

By a caregiver bringing their personal best to their care receiver, they have enriched the lives of everyone, including themselves. Every day can be a win with these tips in mind.

In Conclusion:

No matter what we want our personal life stories to be, we can learn from successful athletes to be all we can be. Ultimately, we will be serving those to whom we provide care with an experience of presence, understanding, and compassion while taking care of ourselves.

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