Being the caregiver of an older adult can be a challenge. Each year, 44 million Americans devote much of their time providing care for the older, sick or disabled family members or friends. For many of us, being a caregiver is a second full-time job. Not surprisingly, the stress and strain can take a physician and emotional toll.
First, Care for Yourself
On an airplane, an oxygen mask descends in front of you. What do you do? As we all know, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important and one of the most often forgotten things you can do as a caregiver. When your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too.
Here are six simple steps to help you stay healthy
while caring for a loved one.
Avoid being the sole caregiver, if possible. This may mean asking adult children or siblings to help with groceries or car rides or even hiring a professional caregiver to perform difficult tasks like bathing your loved one. Short-term respite care, programs that send a healthcare professional to your home to provide temporary care your family member or friend, is also helpful. Some long-term care insurance policies will cover this. Also federal and state programs may also provide funding. Check with your local Area Agency of Aging for Eldercare options in your area.
Specialized health organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s Association or the American Cancer Society, can provide detailed information on the disease process that your friend or family member is facing.
Physical activity is good for the body and the brain. Getting 30 minutes of physical activity, such as walking, on all or most days of the week, along with regular, well-balanced meals that are high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grain and low in fat will help you stay fit and avoid excessive weight gain.
Talk to a family member, friend, minister or counselor about what you are experiencing, or seek out a local support group. It’s all to easy for a caregiver to withdraw from family and friends, but research shows that those with emotional outlets report let stress and fewer health ailments than those without such connections.
Remembering your own doctor appointments and when to take your medicine can be difficult enough without having to juggle someone else’s as well. Keeping a calendar of your appointments, writing your reminders, or even setting an alarm when it’s time to take your medication can be cues to help you stay on top of your health issues.
Carve out some time each week to do something you enjoy, such as reading a book, watching a movie, or gardening.