As a caregiver it can be difficult to take time for yourself. Just the thought can be overwhelming, especially if it means taking time, financial resources or focus away from the person you are caring for. With any change, it is best to take one small step at a time.
Caring for yourself, is extremely important, whether you are a caregiver or not. Not only is it important for your own health, but for the person you are caring for, as well.
Even by making small, gradual changes, you can improve your health! Some of these changes can even be made with your loved one.
- Take a walk. Exercising does not need to be a long, grueling task. It can be as easy as taking a walk around the block with your loved one. Both of you will probably enjoy the fresh air and change of scenery, as well! Try starting with just 15 minutes a day in your neighborhood. Just that small amount of time can be beneficial. If you do not enjoy walking, try something else and starting small. Yoga, tai chi, a short bike ride, or a workout video on TV or YouTube. Just remember to start small, and make sure it is something you enjoy.
- Regularly visit your doctor. This means at least annually. Be sure to take this time for yourself, and keep up on your health. If you are not feeling well, physically or mentally, schedule a visit sooner.
- Practice meditation. Start with five minutes a day. You owe it to yourself. If meditation seems too intimidating, set a reminder on your phone to take a deep breath every hour. Yoga, or even stretching, can also be great ways to reduce stress.
- Stay connected. Keep time for your friends and family in your schedule. Try and make time at least once a week to meet up with someone you care about. If you cannot make time for an in person activity, make time to talk over the phone. Be sure to stay honest your situation. Just because you’re letting someone know about it, does not mean you are complaining.
- Eat well. As with everything else, start with small goals. Eating healthy snacks, drinking more water, or making sure to eat a healthy breakfast every day are great places to start. If you crave sweets, snack on fruit. If you like crunchy, try raw vegetables, like baby carrots, cucumbers, celery and add hummus. If you crave something salty, try popcorn.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is often one of the first things we skip on when we are stressed or busy. Try to get between 6 and 8 hours per night. If you are able to, take a nap while your loved one is napping.
- Look to your faith. If it is important to you, set aside time to look to your faith.
- Join a support group. You can find many support groups online. A lot of times you can find a support group with participants taking care of someone with the same illness or disease as your loved one. Support groups are a great place to share stories, get tips and support from people going through similar situations as you.
- Look to your community. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging to find local resources for both you and your loved on. Friends and family can also be helpful, even if they are far away.
- Take time for yourself. It can be challenging to make many changes at once. Choose a change that is right for you, and take it one step at a time. Change can start with just five minutes of time to yourself a day. When you start small, you can start to see big improvements.
If you are a caregiver, or know a caregiver who wants extra resources, contact ElderHelp! We offer free monthly educational webinars and free self-paced online courses. We can also offer lunch and learns to local corporations, and suggestions on resources. For more information about our Employed Family Caregiver Support program, visit ElderHelpofSanDiego.org or call 858-380-5729