Although you've assumed the role of the caregiver, it's very important for you to care for yourself. If you get sick or ill, who will take care of you? Caregivers are so busy caring for others that they tend to put their own needs on the back burner. The stress of caregiving can affect your health, leading to anxiety, depression, and even poor physical health. Fortunately, there are ways you can care for yourself. Here's a guide to self-care for the family caregiver.
Take a Break
Caring for a relative can become a full-time or even round-the-clock job. It may seem like you never have a break. But all caregivers need time to themselves. Stepping back and letting someone else assume the role is perfectly fine and healthy. Ask another family member or trusted friend to help with some of the responsibilities to give you a break. It can be something as simple as asking someone to help prepare meals or taking the loved one on a walk to give you a break. Allowing yourself 30 minutes alone each day to take care of yourself will make a difference in your mental and physical state.
You may also want to consider respite care. This type of service allows a professional caregiver to come take care of your loved one so you can get a few days or weeks off.
Being a caregiver is very stressful. Enduring this stress over a long period of time can lead to burnout. In addition to your caregiving responsibilities, do activities that you enjoy to help you manage your stress. Take a bath, read a book, watch a movie, or do other favorite activities.
Taking the time to exercise will not only help you feel better physically, but it can improve your mental state as well. Exercise can help you get a better night's sleep, also. Experts recommend a total of two and a half hours or more of activity each week. Not sure how to fit it in? Take a 10 to 15 minute walk a couple of times a day. Even this can improve things.
Eating healthy is important while caring for others. It may be easy to grab fast food however, choosing healthy options throughout the day helps keep energy levels up and will prove to be the better choice over time.
Nothing can take the place of a full night's sleep. Try your best to sleep 7 to 9 hours each night. If this isn't an option, try to take a short nap during the day.
Write down exactly what you need to get done and what you would like to accomplish. Seeing it in writing can make it easier to achieve goals. A goal could be something like, "I want to feel healthier." Decide what actions you are going to take to reach that goal.
For example, walking for 10 minutes each evening or making time to have a complete physical can help you work towards your goal.
If you don't express what you need or how you feel, people can't help you. Communicate effectively and constructively so that others can help and support you. Be clear and don't make others guess what you need. Ask for help when you need it. Even if you just need a friend you can vent to openly.
You can also reduce stress by learning how to communicate better with the loved one you are caring for. Always make an effort to actively listen. Things go much smoother when two people have mastered the art of communicating.
Learn more about the role of being a family caregiver in our free eBook: The True Cost of Being a Caregiver. Unlock all of our resources by first finding your local Caring Senior Service office.