Being a caregiver for a loved one is a job most people are happy to take on. They want to take care of the person who, in many cases, took care of them. And while caregiving has its rewards, it’s also a 24/7 job. Caregivers are on call at all hours of the day, especially if they are the primary caregiver. This constant responsibility and added emotional and physical strain can cause something called caregiver stress. When caring for a loved one, you are less likely to care for yourself, give yourself much-needed breaks, or keep yourself healthy.
- Body aches
- Weight loss/gain
In many cases, those keeping others from becoming even more ill, end up in the hospital themselves. To stay strong for your family and avoid the ails caused by caregiver stress, remember these self-care ideas.
Ask for and Accept Help
If you’re caring for a family member, ask another family member to step in once in awhile. Even if they just come by to read while you sit with a cup of coffee, this small break can refresh your body and mind. Or ask a neighbor to stop by for an hour while you go grocery shopping. Even though you are the primary caregiver, you don’t have to shoulder the responsibility on your own.
Or, take advantage of the short-term stays that communities like Vista Springs offer. Even if your loved one isn’t ready to make a move into assisted living, short-term stays can give you the chance to take a vacation and return feeling refreshed.
Join a Support Group
The chance to talk to someone who understands what you are going through can lift a huge weight off your shoulders. Only another caregiver will understand that while you love your family member, you may sometimes get frustrated with them, and then feel guilty about it. Find a safe space where you can express these feelings with people who are probably feeling the same things. It’s also a place where you can brainstorm solutions to the problems you face every day and find the resources you need to face those problems head on.
Fatigue, depression, insomnia can all be combatted by staying active. Even if it’s just a 20-minute walk every day or jogging in place in front of the TV, any movement helps. Try Yoga in the morning before your loved one wakes up or a simple stretching routine every night before bed. It doesn’t have to be intense; it just needs to get you moving. Though, if you do have the option to get out the house (remember when we said to ask for help?) getting outside can play a large role in staying happy and healthy.
While it’s tempting to spend almost all your time with your loved one, chatting, watching TV, reading or playing games, it’s also detrimental to your health to cut off other connections. When we don’t socialize, ailments like depression and loneliness are quick to set in. Maintain your social life as much as possible by asking neighbors or other family to step into the caregiver role once in awhile. Make daily phone calls to friends and family and share updates and stories with your loved one. If they have a hard time getting out, they will enjoy hearing your stories and being involved in your life.
Overall, the best advice for caregivers is to take care of yourself too. Eat right, drink water, get plenty of sleep, and see your doctor regularly. You won’t be any help to your loved one if you wear yourself down!