Health Tips for Caregivers

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Health Tips for Caregivers

Many people who care for seniors often forget to take care of themselves.  If you’re a person caring for someone with physical disabilities, mental impairments, or both, it is beneficial to look after your own well-being.  I cared for my own mother for several years so I know how important it is to take care of yourself.

A caregiver is someone who gives basic care to a person who has a chronic medical condition. A chronic condition is an illness that lasts for a long time or doesn’t go away. Some examples of chronic conditions are cancer, effects of stroke, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The caregiver helps the person with tasks such as preparing and eating food, taking medicine, bathing, and dressing.

We all know that the role of caregiver can be one that is demanding and stressful.  CaregiverAction.org provided the following statistics about caregiving:

More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.

The typical family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman caring for her widowed 69-year-old mother who does not live with her. She is married and employed. Approximately 66% of family caregivers are women. More than 37% have children or grandchildren under 18 years old living with them.

Caregivers often have jobs and families that require their attention as well.  This additional strain can cause their own health to suffer.  The following tips are just a few things caregivers can do to support their own health and wellness:

  1. Ask for help – Friends and family may be more than willing to step up, but might not recognize that you need support.  Keep them informed about what is going on with the loved one, delegate tasks to those who are involved.  If they do offer help, accept it.
  2. Take time for yourself – Caregiving is a big job.  For some people, it occupies them twenty-four hours a day.  It is important to take some time away from the job to focus on yourself – a chance to rest, rejuvenate and re-focus.  As a caregiver, if you are burnt out, you are not helpful to anyone.  Find ways to pamper yourself, go outdoors, have a good laugh and visit with other friends and family as often as you can.
  3. Be on top of your own health – When you are taking care of a loved one, sometimes your own health concerns can be pushed to the side.  There are several things you can do to maintain your health and energy levels:
    • Eat well – incorporate lots of fresh foods into your diet to sustain energy.
    • Exercise – try to get thirty minutes on most days, even when you are feeling tired and worn out, your body will thank you.
    • Sleep – getting enough sleep (eight hours is about right) will make you more productive during the day, help you handle stress and boost your mood.
    • Go to YOUR doctor’s appointments – you may find yourself at numerous appointments for your loved one, but don’t skimp on your own.

Being the caregiver of a loved one can be a rewarding experience.  Be sure to take care of yourself so you can be as healthy as possible to give your loved one the support they need.