Caregivers need to take care of themselves
U.S. News & World Report recently wrote about how important it is for family caregivers to care for themselves too. In the article, Frank Blood shares his personal story. He’s 69 and has been caring for his 78 year old wife for 15 years. She has multiple serious health conditions: two bouts of cancer, advanced COPD, and some memory problems.
Unlike many caregivers, Frank doesn’t feel beaten down, isolated, or depressed and isn’t in poor health. He says that a strong commitment to self-care is what keeps him healthy and in a positive state of mind.
Why self-care for caregivers isn’t just a nice-to-have
The article talks with experts and looks at research studies to understand why self-care is so important for caregivers. There are three main reasons, but we think the most important one is: you may no longer be able to care for your loved one.
If you don’t take care of yourself, your own health could become so poor that you’re no longer physically able to care for someone else.
5 ways to care for yourself while caregiving
Ok, so now you’re convinced that taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of your senior. But with all your responsibilities, how do you make it happen? U.S. News & World Report shares 5 practical tips.
1. Hold a family meeting
Talk with siblings and family members to assign clear responsibilities and set expectations so everyone is on the same page. Include your older adult in these meetings, if possible, so they know the plan too.
Even if someone can’t contribute directly with hands-on care, they can help in other ways, such as paying for in-home help, managing finances, or dealing with health insurance claims.
2. Find a support system
Even if you don’t have family who can help, there are other ways to get support. Get help from friends, neighbors, or your faith community. Or, find local caregiver support groups. It’s worth the effort.
3. Make healthy living a priority
It’s essential to eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. If people offer to help, ask them to sit with your senior while you take a nap or do a quick workout. If you don’t have anyone local you could ask for help, hire in-home care a few hours a week to give yourself a break.
4. Schedule regular breaks
Taking breaks gives you a way to recharge, both emotionally and mentally. Grab coffee with a friend, see a movie, or take a walk.
Frank Blood says he can get some time for himself because: “I have taped television programs for [my wife] so I know she’s OK for a short while.”
5. Look for available resources
Use the resources available to you. Doctor’s offices, local health organizations, and your local Area Agency on Aging have educational materials and connections to local caregiving resources. There are also many great caregiver resources online (we think DailyCaring is one of the best!).
As Frank Blood says, “We have to maintain our attitude and good health, or the person we’re caring for will suffer.”
By DailyCaring Editorial Staff