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Keeping Caregivers Healthy

by Kathy Macaraeg
Keeping Caregivers Healthy

Take Steps to Maintain Your Health Now for your Long-Term Well-being

Caregivers have demands on their physical and emotional energy, but what you don’t realize is the impact on your health. It can be easy to put your health maintenance at the bottom of your to do list since there isn’t an outside force demanding your time or energy. Keeping Caregivers Healthy
The problem is, chronic stress leads to major health problems such as headaches, heart disease, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, weight gain and memory problems. By constantly putting your needs at the bottom of your list, you run the risk of one or more of these serious conditions. Keeping Caregivers Healthy
Being a good caregiver means caring for yourself. If you let your health decline, you can’t care for others. Before you think, it can’t happen to me, I’m healthy/strong, consider these facts: Keeping Caregivers Healthy

  • Studies consistently report higher levels of depressive symptoms in caregivers than non-caregivers.
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease caregivers suffer from depression and emotional stress 30-40% more frequently than non-caregivers.
  • Caregivers have less self-acceptance and feel less effective and less in control of their lives than non-caregivers.
  • Caregivers who experience chronic stress may be at greater risk for cognitive decline including loss in short-term memory, attention and verbal IQ.

So what can you do, when you have so little time? Here are simple ways to take better care of yourself to ward off health issues. While it can be difficult squeezing self-care in to your day, remember that you can’t care for someone else if you don’t first care for yourself. You can also try to work it into your care routine and include your caree.

  • Eat a balanced diet. Poor nutrition or rushing through meals can endanger your health in the long run. Eating well doesn’t have to be difficult. There are cooking shortcuts to work it into a packed schedule.
  • Get regular health check-ups by your health care providers. Caregivers are most likely to cancel their own medical appointments and not fill a prescription due to cost. The long-term effect can be damaging.
  • Avoid extra work. Prioritize your tasks and keep a list of what needs to be done each day and a “maybe someday list.” Be kind to yourself. Recognize that there are only so many hours in the day and you can’t do it all. It is OK to leave the clean laundry in the baskets or eat scrambled eggs for dinner.
  • Don’t feel guilty about setting limits for yourself. It is OK to say no. Not everything is an emergency and not everything is a need. When I am stressed out, I decide what is a need versus a want. A need is that I need to feed my family. A want is that it has to be a complicated home-cooked meal. Sometimes a rotisserie chicken and bagged salad from the grocery store is perfectly OK.
  • Take a walk, ride a bicycle, swim, stretch or even work in the garden. Just get your body moving. You don’t have to do it alone. Involve your caree in physical activities. Even if he/she is wheelchair bound, a walk around the block is great for both of you. You get exercise, he/she gets fresh air.
  • Take time for yourself to enjoy a hobby, read, or do something nice for yourself. Having things to look forward to can improve your outlook. You don’t have to take on big tasks. Try to read a few pages of a book before bed or watch a YouTube tutorial on a hobby you’d like to try.

Be kind to yourself. Being a caregiver is challenging and isolating. It can also be a thankless job. Your caree may not be able to express thanks, but know that you are doing great work.
Taking care of your well-being will not only benefit you now, but it will help your long-term health. Don’t put yourself last.

Keeping Caregivers Healthy

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