Self-Care for the CaregiverGuest post: June Duncan
Just as you crawl into bed after a long day taking care of Mom, you realize you forgot to get your own prescription filled today. For many caregivers, it can be difficult to balance responsibilities. This scenario is all too common as caregivers provide care for their elderly parents, while also looking out for their own families as well. While caring for others, it’s important to also take ourselves into consideration.
Self-Care Matters for Body and Soul
Women are at the most risk for the harmful health effects of caregiver stress. These health problems may include anxiety and depression which can raise your risk for other health problems such as heart disease and stroke. If you feel overwhelmed, sad, isolated, have lost interest in things you once enjoyed, and are experiencing unexplained body aches, you may need to reach out to your doctor to rule out any medical conditions. In addition, you may need to see a mental health professional to talk to someone objective about what you are experiencing.
While you may believe you are far too busy to do things like preparing healthy meals, visiting with friends, or getting regular exercise, neglecting yourself can lead to caregiver burnout. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), signs of such burnout may include mood swings and the tendency to get sick frequently. You may also notice that you’re snapping at everyone over every little thing.
It’s understandable that you may not have 30 minutes at one time to exercise, but keep in mind that even a 10-minute walk can improve your state of mind and reap health benefits.
Even though you’ve always been the go-to person in your family, it’s OK to ask for help. Think about calling on your circle of friends and relatives when you need a break. Take time for yourself. If you can’t fit in an overnight getaway, a nice dinner out with your best friend from college can do you a world of good.
More Ways to Help Yourself and Your Loved One
Realizing you can’t do it all yourself is often the first step that may steer you toward looking for outside resources. Think about things like caregiver classes offered by your local hospital, adult day care services, or respite services. Joining a support group can offer you a terrific way to connect with others in situations like yours, and you may glean ideas that can help you and your loved one. As old-fashioned as it may sound, make to-do lists and stick to a daily routine as best you can.
If you have a job outside your home, you may want to consider taking a break from it. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for relatives.
Small Steps for Your Health
It may not seem like much to incorporate those 10-minute walks into your day or to reach out to friends to sit with your loved one for a few hours so you can enjoy some time off. But these activities can reap long-term benefits for you and, in turn, your loved one.
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