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Caregiver Tips from Lyla Kiel

Today, on the four year anniversary of her mother's passing, Advocacy and Events Coordinator for the Move for Jenn Foundation, Lyla Kiel, shares her tips for caregivers.

If you have found yourself here, you have either been a caregiver, are a caregiver, are potentially going to become a caregiver, or you simply want to support someone who is a caregiver. First, I want to say welcome! Second, I want you to know that you are not alone. Third, I wish I could hug you.
 
Let’s jump right in. I am nurturing by nature. I love big. But let me tell you, the love that overpowers all else when someone you love is fighting cancer, is unmatched. However, my biggest piece of advice to all caregivers is that you must give yourself the same love that you are selflessly giving others.
 
To be your best, you cannot pour from an empty cup and being a caregiver is hard. I will never describe it as a “new normal” because nothing about the circumstance is in fact “normal.” It is a role that you choose to step in to, but mostly a role that you choose to step UP to.
 
When caring for my mom, I lived by a “we will rise to meet this” mentality. Everything was different. Everything was hard. If you find yourself in a caregiving position and feel burned out, that is okay. That does not make you a bad person, it just means you’re a human who is helping someone in a superhuman battle.
 
I remember the first time I realized I was running on fumes. What did I do you ask?! Please find the list below (if you know me you know I love lists)! 
 
Set aside time to move your body. 
  • When my mom was sick, it was pre-COVID. Thus, at the very least, 5 times a week I was at heated yoga. It was my hour and 20 minutes (with drive time) that I could sing in my car, cry, yell, sweat and then I was ready to go back to caregiving. 
  • ♡ Pro tip- make a schedule with yourself that you must commit to. Then you know that time is reserved for you.  
 
Make a list of the things that you are in charge of.
  • Whether that be medication/times, meals eaten, symptoms/side effects, appointments. This will help you stay on track and it will also remind you of how amazing you are.
 
Spend quality time with your person.
  • Spending time with my mom and disassociating her from her cancer was so healthy for us. Our roles had changed immensely, but our relationship had not. Spending time away from my mom as a cancer patient and spending time with my mom simply as my mom, refreshed both of our souls.
  • This included a lot of time lying in bed as a family or going to meals when she could. Those little moments were everything and I would give the world to have them back.
 
Speak to a professional and/or other people going through something similar.
  • Watching someone you love fight for their life brings up a lot of emotions. I implore you to find a therapist, support group (it can sound intimidating, but my grief group helped change my life), self-help books, Instagram hashtags, etc.
 
Journal your new perspectives, moments, and gratefuls (Ly vocabulary: I say gratefuls when I am referring to writing down three things, I am grateful for).
  • ♡ Pro tip- If it is too hard to write more than a few words at a time, I suggest writing down words that will trigger a grateful memory down the line!

Make time for YOU!

  • See your friends, your significant other, have yourself a day or night! As I said earlier, you cannot pour from an empty cup. You cannot spend your time caring for others if you do not also care for yourself. 


Set boundaries for yourself and for your caregiving responsibilities.  

  • In full transparency this one is hard for me, but it is a daily practice and VERY important. There is nothing wrong with saying no and finding a better fit for whatever you may be uncomfortable handling. You can best support your person by finding someone who can best support them.
 
A bath. Enough said. I took so many baths.  
  • ♡ Pro tip- Get Epsom salts (my fav is Dr. Teals Rose Calming and Serenity, which I from Target), and a candle that you love. If baths aren’t your thing, find something similar where you can be alone and find some inner calm.
 
Breathe.
  • The amount of time I found myself holding my breath was unbelievable. I felt it in my jaw, my shoulders, my neck, my stomach. If you find yourself feeling tense, take a few moments just to focus on your breathing.
 
Living room (or bedroom, or kitchen, or patio, whatever!) dance parties.
  • If you do not do this yet, thank me later. I swear that 60 seconds is all you need in a pinch, but by all means, give it all you got!
 
Make little mantras that you can touch on when you are going through it mentally.  
  • “Day by day. And when that seems too much minute by minute.”  
  • “You can do hard things.”  
  • “Tomorrow is a new day. The sun will rise again.” 
  • “Find the glow, and when you can't find it, make it/be it.”  

Most importantly, find what works and feels good for you and your heart. I see you; I am here to cheer you on. We got this. You got this. 
 
For anyone who wants to talk caregiving, self-care, or caregiving self-care, please email me at lyla@moveforjenn.com

Lyla with her late mother, Deborah, and her sister, Bree.


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