“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness

What can help caregivers be happier?

Most caregivers are frustrated, overwhelmed and have little time for themselves. But did you know that many of the activities associated with caregiving are actually principles that experts say will make us happier in our lives? The decision to choose happiness over sadness is ours.

In my 14 years at Memory Matters, I have met hundreds of caregivers. Some are able to see the journey for what it is and accept it.

Others take the “poor me” road and rarely consider their loved one’s feelings. They cannot, or will not, learn to be a happy caregiver.

I found a few tips on the www.alz.org blog that could help. If you are reading this challenge, just try one tip.

  • Be kind, do something nice for someone, volunteer. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 75 percent of caregivers feel they had no choice to become a caregiver, the need was there and they were the one to fill the role.

Even if you felt you had no choice, you have volunteered for one of life’s most important roles, caring for the one you love. This is one of the kindest, nicest gifts you can give another person. You are paying it forward for your own care later in life.

  • Develop spiritual life, practice forgiveness. When we search for deeper meaning in life, believe in a higher power or just take the time to understand both our own and other’s limitations, we are on the path to more happiness in our lives.

Numerous studies have shown that our spirituality increases as we age. Forgiving your loved one for their behaviors, whether it is their endless repeating, their abstinence or constant needs. It is hard for the caregiver.

Try to forgive your loved one, because in the end they are probably afraid, and that often changes our personalities. For your sake, find an expert that can give you techniques on how to cope so you can maintain your happiness level.

  • Try smiling. Remember how good you feel when someone smiles at you? You smile back. Smiling is contagious and spreads faster than the flu. It is difficult to be angry when you have a smile on your face.

Cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of “Peanuts” comic strip, once said, “Happiness is a warm puppy and a side of French fries.” Memory Matters might not be a warm puppy, but our support groups are the next best thing. Is it time you joined some folks who could help you be a happier caregiver?

Visit our website at www.memory-matters.org or call 843-842-6688.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org