Have you found yourself in a new caregiving role, wondering where to start and what to do next? Do you ever feel overwhelmed and wishing you had a helpful guide to offer tips?
Enter Willetha King Barnette and Harold Barnette.
They have a story to tell…A story of service, support, and paying it forward. Through their book, The Caregiver’s Secrets, their organization The Institute of Family Caregiving, and their programs around the state, Willetha and Harold are helping caregivers become more empowered and hopeful. We had the pleasure of hosting them for a program last week at the Family House.
Harold explained that years ago, Harold’s and Willetha’s daughter was very concerned about Willetha’s health as she was caring for her mother and working full time. Their daughter was worried that Willetha was going to get to a point when her own health was seriously in jeopardy, and they realized that they needed to be very intentional about offering help and caring for the caregiver.
Willetha knew that her story wasn’t unusual. Recent estimates indicate that over 40 million people provide unpaid, informal care for family members and friends. She reminded us that caregiving is a job with a very challenging job description!
Many of us are unprepared for the cost and the time commitment, but we do it because we have a strong sense of responsibility.
Willetha said that she had so much to learn, so she decided to become an empowered caregiver and to try to see every situation and crisis as a learning opportunity. From their experiences, Willetha and Harold developed the Seven Principles of Caregiving, and during their evening at the Family House they focused on the seventh principle: “Seek respite and be vigilant about self-care.”
Our own care is important! In one study, a staggering 40% of caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients died before their care receiver due to stress-related disorders. Self-care can include simple actions that can make a difference. This may mean disappointing people and saying no. It also may mean taking intentional steps to relax.
We don’t need to see these activities as treating ourselves but rather as taking care of ourselves.
Here are some tips:
- Practice good sleep habits
- Consider alternative treatments like massage and acupuncture
- Speak positive messages to yourself. Celebrate small victories
- Have some herbal tea
- Take a relaxing bath
- Find something to laugh about
- Enjoy some light reading
- Do crossword puzzles and games—even on your phone, so they’re handy
- Try to have a morning routine
- Enjoy a healthy meal
- Take a 20-minute walk with a friend
Willetha reminded us that the stress response is automatic, and we have to work on the relaxation response. She encouraged everyone to consider things that they could do to make a difference in their own health and well-being.
When caregivers show up to help, they’re saying to the person receiving care: “I’ve got your back.” Thanks to people like Willetha and Harold, caregivers can hear that same important message.
Check out Willetha King Barnette’s Op-Ed in the News & Observer
The Caregiver’s Secrets is available on Amazon.com.
Contact Willetha at: