It seems ironic, but all too often true: a caregiver can be so focused on their patient that they don’t always remember to properly care for themselves. While caring for someone ill or injured is certainly important, it’s equally important for caregivers to remember to take care of themselves, too. Read on to remind yourself about vital areas of self-care.
Make time for yourself. While you may fear that taking time for yourself would be selfish, realize that taking a little time for yourself can help you be a good caregiver.
- Find enjoyable activities that will allow you a little break. Even just a few minutes could be helpful. Watch a sitcom, call a friend, devote a little time to your favorite hobby, or do anything else that you enjoy doing and that helps you relax.
- Be active. Even light exercise like walking, stretching, or dancing can make you less tired. Yard work or gardening or playing with pets or children can also be a fun way to be active and lift your spirits. A brisk walk is not only good exercise, but it could also be a way to clear your mind.
- Connect with friends. Make a lunch date or dinner date with a friend. Or make new friends by going online and finding other caregivers to connect with. Forums and websites can allow you to make new caregiver friends from around the world; sites like Meetup.com can help you find other caregivers local to you.
- Take time off. Know your mental and physical limits when it comes to the amount of caregiving that you can do. If friends offer to help you out by bringing over a meal so you don’t have to cook, or stepping into your caregiving shoes for a few hours so you can take a break, take them up on it. If they haven’t offered, don’t be afraid or shy when it comes to asking for help.
Care for your own health, too. You may feel too busy to think about your own health, but if you don’t take care of your own health, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else. Taking care of your health not only benefits you, but also the person for whom you’re caring.
- Go to all your checkups. It’s vital that you don’t neglect appointments with your medical providers.
- Take your medications. If you’re afraid that you’ll forget to take your meds during busy and taxing days of caregiving, set alarms on your cell phone that can alert you to take your medications.
- Eat healthy meals. It’s easy to fall back on unhealthy food when you’re on the run doing errands for the person you’re taking care of. Don’t give in to the lure of the drive-thru. If you don’t have time to make yourself–or even sit down to enjoy–a healthy meal for lunch or dinner while caregiving, keep an arsenal of healthy snacks with you to munch on throughout the day. Fresh fruit, carrot sticks, celery sticks with peanut butter, low-fat yogurt or string cheese, microwaveable servings of oatmeal, or whole-grain crackers are healthy and easily portable choices.
- Get enough rest. Caregiving can be stressful. Allow your body to recharge with a good night’s sleep.
- Make time to relax. Don’t underestimate the power of “you” time.
It’s admirable that you are a devoted caregiver–but be sure to not neglect yourself and your own needs in the process. Extra stress can cause changes in your health, so make sure to tell your doctor if you notice any new changes in your body. Consider talking to a patient advocacy service to help make things easier for you while you are handling caregiving duties. A service like Health Advocate or Health Proponent can help connect you to medical providers–primary care physicians, mental health specialists and counselors, nutritionists, and others. Advocates can take some of the responsibility off of caregivers by making doctor appointments, arranging transportation, researching care options, filling out paperwork, sorting out insurance issues, and more.