Caregivers: Take Care of Yourself

According to the Office of Women’s health, “A caregiver is anyone who provides care for another person in need, such as a child, an aging parent, a husband or wife, friend, or neighbor.”

While caregiving can be a very important act of love and service, it is common for caregivers to also feel overwhelmed and stressed. In the face of someone else’s illness, it may be easy to think your own needs aren’t as important. But the stress that comes with caregiving can lead to depression, anxiety, insomnia, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, dementia, and even death. Caregivers also tend to suffer from chronic pain, fatigue, and other ailments.

Are you so overwhelmed by caring for someone else that you have neglected your physical, mental, or emotional well-being? When this happens repeatedly, caregivers are more likely to get sick themselves because their own immune systems have been weakened by stress. Yet, trying to squeeze in time for yourself might make you feel even more stressed. What can you do?

By taking just one small step to take better care of yourself, you can reduce your stress and its effects. It’s not selfish for you to take care of yourself so that you can continue to care for someone else.

See which of the following suggestions resonates the most and ask yourself, “What’s one small way I can take care of myself today?” By starting small, you won’t feel as overwhelmed and can build on small wins.

  • Find time for yourself. Consider taking advantage of respite care so you can spend time doing something you enjoy. Whether an Adult Day Health Program or an in-patient respite program, respite caregivers provide a temporary rest from caregiving.
  • Know what community resources are available. Contact your local Aging and Long-Term Care office and/or the Alzheimer’s Association online Community Resource Finder to find dementia care and other age-specific healthcare resources in your area.
  • Become an educated caregiver. Visit the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center and your local Aging and Long-Term Care office to learn more and access care training resources.
  • Ask for help. Most people recognize that caregiving is stressful, but they may not know or realize the impact it’s having on you. Letting others know you need help is a sign of strength and builds connection.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, and get your rest.
  • Manage your level of stress. Commit to finding relaxation techniques that work for you.
  • Accept changes as they occur. People with dementia change over time, and so do their needs. Become aware of community resources from home care services to residential care.
  • Make legal and financial plans. Legal, economic, and safety procedures are vital for everyone. If you are unsure about how to complete legal documents or make financial plans, you may want to seek assistance from an attorney specializing in elder law.
  • You’re doing your best. Know that the care you provide makes a difference. You can’t promise how care will be delivered, but you can ensure that the person with Alzheimer’s is well cared for and safe.
  • Visit your doctor regularly.

Countless resources are available through the Alzheimer’s Association.

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