As any caregiver knows, taking care of a loved one can be an all-consuming job. It is all too easy for your caregiving role to totally take over your life. This can affect your health and well being.
Experts note that the day to day job of taking care of someone else can compromise your health. Over the long term, fatigue, stress and discouragement can cause you to stop taking care of your own needs. That is why many experts recommend that caregivers regularly 'reassess and practice intentional self-care.'
Caregivers need to take time for themselves regularly.
According to the American Psychological Assn., from 40-70% of caregivers have at least some signs of depression, and up to half may experience major depression. Headaches, back problems, hypertension and a weak immune system also can affect caregivers.To boost your own health as a caregiver, try these easy tips:
- Keep your exercise routine simple: Go to the gym five days per week, or walk an hour a day. Anything too complicated can be difficult with a caregiver's schedule.
- Try to blend your exercise into your busy week, too: Ride an indoor bike while you watch TV, or while your mom naps, take a quick walk around the block.
- Eat smart: Eat fresh fruit and veggies instead of high calorie snacks and sweets. Drink more water, and lay off the soda and juice.
- Watch your stress level: Some days as a caregiver are going to be stressful. If your loved one is in pain or having a medical issue, your stress can go off the chart. Recognize when you are overstressed and figure out ways to calm yourself. Try to do something that relaxes you, whether it is go for a walk, read a book or have a cup of coffee on the couch with your feet up.
- Plan to take a break: Caregiving can overwhelm us if we allow it too. Circle a day on the calendar when you can go visit friends, go to a movie or visit the spa. You need to be able to get away every week or two and recharge.
Please be sure to take care of your own needs, so that you can better care for your loved one. Be sure also to ask for help! Ask a relative or friend to step in and give you a break.