The saying “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t to take care of others” rings so true when it comes to caring for a parent, spouse, sibling or even friends. Yes, you can ignore your own health and needs for a while, but it isn’t healthy or sustainable. Working with seniors for more than 30 years, we have often seen many caregivers ruin their own health. It is sadly common for the “healthy spouse” to pass away first, because of the stresses of being a caregiver. Physical health, emotional health and relationships can be irreversibly damaged.
So, what’s the solution? The first, and most important, step to addressing stress, for both the senior and caregiver is accepting help and spending time on self-care. Being a caregiver can often be a full-time job, leaving little time for anything else, including your own self-care. However, self-care is critical and benefits the caregiver and the one being cared for.
Self-Care Tips for Caregivers
- Make sure to do that which re-charges your batteries. Being a caregiver is hard. You need to take some time for yourself and do that which replenishes you.
- Eat a healthy diet. The importance of this cannot be understated. It requires energy to maintain your strength, your demeanor and to be alert and effective. Eat regular meals that include protein, fruits and vegetables.
- Get regular exercise. Besides being just plain good for you, it helps work off stress. Caregiving is extremely stressful; exercise will help you handle stress and help you sleep better. It is also a proven natural anti-depressant.
- Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep has been shown to undo caregivers more than anything else. For spouses caring for a loved one with dementia, adequate sleep can be nearly impossible. Try to schedule relaxing bedtime routines, such as a hot bath, listening to soft music, etc.
- Check on yourself. Providing for a loved one can be overwhelming and yet we expect superhuman abilities of ourselves. Are you feeling guilty about not being able to provide everything your loved one needs? Do you feel selfish taking care of your own needs? If so, an honest assessment of the situation and a bit of a reality check may be in order. Recognize there are limits to what a person can do and you have to sustain yourself to be able to sustain others.
- Ask for help. Long-term, intensive caregiving is generally not sustainable for one person and typically isn’t the best option for your loved one. Whether that help comes from friends or family pitching in or finding a care community with the resources to meet all of your loved ones needs – ask for help. You might be telling yourself that others won’t help, or that no one can do as good of a job as you, and so you don’t ask for the help you need. For you and your loved one’s sake, get help.
- Stay connected with family and friends. Caregiving can be lonely, and you are likely to feel isolated at times. Whatever you do – don’t isolate. Stay connected with others and build relationships; this enhances well-being.
- Join a support group. People in similar situations can help you feel less isolated, and encourage your self-care. There are also online groups to help you feel more connected.
- Promote Your Spirituality. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of caregiving, take time to connect spiritually. Great strength and wisdom can be gained by renewing your spiritual foundation.
- Consider Short-term Care or temporary (Respite) care for your loved one. Placing them at a first-class community for a few days, or a few weeks, can provide a temporary break for you to recharge yourself, reconnect with family and restore your own health and well-being.
General Stress Solutions:
- Become physically active.
- Try out a support group to engage with others who may be sharing your same struggle.
- Seek out programs that focus on mind and body, such as yoga or something you enjoy.
- Practice deep breathing daily for relaxation.
- And most importantly, seek relief as soon as you feel stress.
Short-Term Care (Respite Care) May Help Alleviate Stress
At Teresa’s House, we provide Short-Term Care/Respite stays in both Assisted Living and Memory Care. Designed to give caregivers a break and/or to see if Teresa’s House is the right long-term solution, it can be a true lifesaver for all family members.
If you need assistance ensuring the best for your loved one, talk to us about a short-term/respite stay. Contact us at 469.998.7952. We’re here to guide and support you and your loved one.
Disclaimer: The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any message and will not be held responsible for the content of any message. Always consult your personal physician for specific medical advice.