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5 Ways Caregivers Can Care For Themselves

06-20-2016

5 Ways Caregivers Can Care For Themselves

Undoubtedly, serving as a caregiver can take a toll on a person’s mental and physical health. A recent study from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP proved this, reporting that 38 percent of caregivers report high emotional stress from the demands of caregiving. Plus, 82 percent of caregivers polled either lived with or within 20 miles of the person they were providing support for, adding additional stress and opportunity for burnout. But in order to provide the best care for others, its important caregivers understand the ways they can best take care of themselves.

Some common healthcare concerns reported by caregivers include sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, a lack of exercise, irregular medical appointments and a failure to properly rest when ill. Additionally, family caregivers are at increased risk for depression and increase use of drugs, tobacco and alcohol.

Always consult with a medical professional if you feel like you may be suffering from any of these symptoms and take a look at the tips below to be proactive about your health.

  1. Keep your stress to a minimum: Providing care for someone else is stressful, whether the caregiving is voluntary or not. The relationship with the patient, the caregiver’s coping abilities and the situation itself can all contribute to rising stress levels. But managing that stress is something caregivers can control, first by recognizing the signs, which can include irritability, sleeplessness and forgetfulness. Or you can take this short caregiver stress test from the Alzheimer’s Association to see if you might be suffering from high stress.

To help manage the stress, identify what can and cannot be controlled and the sources of stress. Finally, take action. Find activities like writing or cooking that help bring mindfulness into your day and if you start to feel like you’re losing control, talk to a medical professional.

  1. Set realistic goals: Dealing with a family member or friends’ diagnosis can feel overwhelming, which is why coming up with a game plan early on can aid in eliminating additional stress. Break larger tasks into more digestible action items and prioritize activities every day. This will help shape a daily routine that will help bring structure into your day and set expectations for the person being cared for.
  1. Find time to exercise: Exercise is an integral part of any healthy lifestyle. It can promote better sleep, reduce tension and depression and increase energy but for caregivers, finding time to squeeze in physical exercise can be difficult. Try incorporating exercise into your daily routine, consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which help tone your whole body but can usually be done in less than 20 minutes.
  1. Ask for help: Just because caregivers are expected to provide care for others doesn’t exclude them from needing help sometimes themselves. Whether it’s taking a break from caregiving or asking a friend to pick up a few things while they’re at the store, help can come in all shapes and sizes. Take a few minutes to think about what needs to be done and ways different people can help. This will ensure that when help is offered, you’re prepared to assign tasks and subsequently, when asking for help, you already know what needs to be done.
  1. Know when to step away:It might feel otherwise, but one person simply can’t do everything. Be cautious about taking on too many projects or activities and be honest with yourself and others about how many commitments you can realistically handle. If you’re a part of the 60 percent of caregivers who work outside of the home and your caregiving situation is starting to interfere with your nine-to-five, talk to your HR contact about your options. Employees covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to care for relatives.

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. If you’re providing care for someone dealing with Alzheimer or dementia, visit the Alzheimer’s Association for more ways to care for yourself.