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Staying Healthy and Happy: 10 Tips for Caregivers
Taking care of yourself is a significant part of being a successful caregiver. As a caregiver, you likely devote the majority of your time to your loved one and may not set aside much time to relax and unwind. While you may feel like slowing down isn’t an option, it’s important to remember that to take the best possible care of your loved one, you have to take good care of yourself, too.
Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean spending the day at the spa or going on a luxurious vacation. It can be as simple as setting aside time for yourself to breathe each day, practicing yoga or meditation, and allowing yourself to ask others for help. Taking care of your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health helps you be the best version of yourself while caring for someone else. Check out these 10 tips for family caregivers to stay as healthy and happy as possible:
1. Take breaks. It’s normal to need a break from your caregiving duties. Even a 30-minute break can allow you to get in a good workout, meditate, eat a healthy snack, take a walk, or do something else that helps you unwind.
2. Seek support and ask for help. When friends and family offer their support, accept it—at least once in a while. Give specific examples of what you’d like help with, such as: “Could you pick up Mom’s medications today?” Allowing others to help gives you the opportunity to take breaks to take care of yourself.
3. Make time for yourself. Even if you don’t have much free time, make a point to do something that makes you happy every day. Whether it’s reading a book, taking a walk, listening to music, or whatever you prefer, doing activities you love is therapeutic.
4. Stay connected. You may have a busy life, but don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Make time to visit with family and friends, even if it’s a phone call or video chat. Your caregiving duties may be top of mind, but find other topics to talk about, too.
5. Be open to new technology. New technology can be daunting, but it can also be incredibly helpful in a caregiving setting. While some tech tools can take some getting used to, innovative offerings like telehealth, home automation, and emergency response systems can ease aspects of caregiving.
6. Stay organized. Keep your loved one’s medical information easily accessible and neatly organized so it’s readily available and easy to find.
7. Monitor your mental health. Being a caretaker can be an incredibly stressful job involving many emotions, and the demands placed on you can lead to depression. If you start noticing symptoms of depression—such as prolonged sadness, apathy, loss of interest in daily life and hobbies, or excessive crying—reach out to your doctor for help. Often, medication and professional therapy can help you manage these symptoms.
8. Take care of your physical health. Visit your doctor at least once a year for wellness visits, and don’t delay care if you think you have a health issue. If you’re experiencing exhaustion, stress, insomnia, or changes in your appetite or behavior, ignoring these signs can cause more harm. It’s essential to take care of yourself, so you can continue being there for your loved one.
9. Take daily steps to stay healthy. Keep your health in tip-top shape by establishing an exercise routine (or, if your schedule is packed, find time to exercise in small increments). Maintain a heart-healthy diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables, and limit consumption of processed foods and refined sugars. When you eat better, you feel better.
10. Last but not least: Give yourself credit. Being a caregiver is one of the most challenging jobs there is. There are good days and bad days, but at the end of the day, know that you are doing a fantastic job.