Recently, I interviewed Dr. Lara Lauzon, a professor at UVic whose research focuses on wellness. Lara, once the host of the local health and fitness show *Body Moves*, will be FCNS's keynote speaker launching Family Caregiver Week on May 12. She will share practical tips with family caregivers on creating wellness in their lives while they care for others.
Lara suggests creating a wellness plan that fits an individual's lifestyle and interests. With an extensive fitness background, Lara uses physical activity as a baseline for her well-being.
"If I am not active on a regular basis, I get grumpy," she says.
We all have at least one activity that makes us well and energizes us. Involvement in it motivates us to take care of ourselves in other ways. When we don't have time to do a lot to keep us well, making time for this one thing can impact all areas of our lives. We become a better mother, son, wife, husband or caregiver. For some people, it will be physical exercise, for others, gardening, music, reading or painting. What makes you well?
Well-being also includes connecting with others, asking for help and sharing the care. Lara was raised to be independent, so she had to learn that "you don't always have to do everything yourself. Working with others can help you stay well. If you are so independent you're trying to do everything on your own, you can easily burn out."
Growing up with parents who made volunteer work a large part of their lives, Lara learned to care for others, but not about self-care. After studying wellness, she realized if people don't take care of themselves first, it becomes difficult to take care of others. Without self-care, the mind and body become drained and the caregiver ends up becoming someone who needs to be cared for. Some people struggle for a long time, being ineffective and feeling guilty, while pretending everything is OK.
Constant self-care along the way is a better plan for living well than attempting a crash course in wellness when it may be too late. Wellness does not mean you won't ever feel stress or fatigue.
Most people don't exercise and eat healthy every day, but staying well is about embracing wellness as a lifestyle. Life will always have peaks and valleys. For family caregivers, staying well is especially important because caregiving involves so many unknowns. Getting off track is easy, but getting back on track can simply involve spending a small amount of time on the one activity that makes you well.
For more tips on creating wellness in your life, join other caregivers for lunch and Lara's presentation, "For the WELLth of it," on May 12. Contact the Family Caregivers' Network at 384-0408 or visit our website at www.fcns-caregiving.org for more information. FCNS's new Caregiver Wellness Booklet will also be available at this event.
Next month: Palliative Care