As someone who tends to the needs of an aging loved one, you might feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. It’s important, however, to find time for yourself, even if it’s in small doses. These caregiver tips for self-care can easily fit into your busy life.
Caregiving is an important part of health care in our society, but tending to the needs of a senior loved one can eventually take a toll on you. According to scientific studies, the chronic stress of caregiving wears down your mental and physical health.
Mental Health Effects
Caregivers endure a great deal of stress and often show signs of clinical depression. Those who care for dementia patients are particularly at risk, due to the kind of suffering people with dementia endure.
Tip 1: Avoid Caregiver Stress. The burden of caring for an elderly loved one can lead to what is called “caregiver stress.” Experts describe some of the symptoms as anger, social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, exhaustion, inability to concentrate, and becoming socially isolated. If you find these terms describe you, it’s time to talk with your personal physician.
Tip 2: Take care of your mind: Caregivers often feel guilty when they take time away from their patients in order to tend to their own needs. However, it’s important that you make your mental health a priority, or you could suffer from caregiver stress. Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily routine, such as deep breathing exercises and meditation. Employ community support programs, such as adult day care and in-home assistance. Reach out to friends and family for relief and sharing responsibilities.
Physical Health Effects
The National Alliance on Mental Illness notes that the stress of caregiving can produce a number of harmful side effects. You can experience headaches, lack of energy, digestive upsets, aching, and insomnia.
Tip 3. Take care of your body: It’s important to take care of your own body so that you are strong and healthy enough to tend to your loved ones. Get enough sleep, eat right, and exercise every day.
Tip 4. Take care of your medical needs: Caregivers often neglect their own medical needs. Thrive Global recommends reaching out for respite care when you need time to take care of yourself. If finances are prohibitive, search for a free or low-cost health care clinic near you.
Tip 5. Time management: You might feel like you simply don’t have time to put one more thing into your schedule, and things like exercise and sleeping and eating right get bumped down on the list of priorities. ElderCareLink offers some terrific tips for managing your time as a caregiver.
Don’t rush: Being in a continual hurry doesn’t actually help you. You might think you need to rush to get things done quickly, but you create more stress in the rushing. Pace yourself and allow the days to flow.
Try “grouping”: Group together items that are related in your home and in your senior’s home. Put all medications together, put all laundry items together, and so on. That way when it’s time to find things you aren’t scouring different rooms for them.
Alone time: Try setting aside a few hours in the day, several days a week for quiet time. Even if it means setting an alarm to rise before your patient, it equates to precious time for yourself. Take the opportunity to sip a cup of tea or spend time meditating.
Your Self-Care Program
As a caregiver it’s important that you tend to your own well-being. Make taking care of your mental and physical health a part of your routine for a better quality of life. These caregiver tips can help. By taking care of you, you will be able to take better care of the needs of your loved ones.
Author & Guest Blogger: June Duncan
Author Bio: June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones.
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