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Five things family caregivers can do to protect their well-being

November 14, 2022

Caring for a loved one is rewarding but can be overwhelming at times. Most family caregivers have to juggle caregiving responsibilities with busy schedules and careers. Family caregivers have many responsibilities. They range from doing chores and running errands to helping pay bills or dealing with insurance matters. 

So, in the midst of it all, it's easy for caregivers to lose themselves in the process. Here are some simple tips to stay healthy and optimistic:

  • Take breaks and get enough sleep 
     

Being a caregiver can feel like a full-time job. Most caregivers get caught up in day-to-day responsibilities, like shopping for groceries or refilling medications and forget to take breaks. Caregivers need to take time to recharge and refresh their minds. When caring for a family member, it's OK to slow down, pat yourself on the back, and let go of negative feelings like guilt. Meditation, controlled breathing, and mindfulness can help you focus and relieve stress. Practice slow, deep breathing every day. It's helpful to concentrate on a single thing in the room, like a spot on the wall, and close your eyes.

A good night's sleep is important. Worrying about your loved one before bed will not improve things. Create a sleep schedule and create consistent bedtime routines. Try going to bed at the same time every night, avoid caffeine in the afternoon, and limit TV and internet before bed.

  • Stay active
     

Regular exercise can help reduce stress and stabilize your blood pressure and cholesterol. Walking is a great option, even if you do it around the block for a few minutes. The key is to start small and increase the pace or intensity with time. Staying active and eating a healthy diet can boost your energy level, too. Opt for a diet that includes foods from all groups, and pay attention to portion size. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products contain potassium, essential for your heart, kidney, and nerve health to function better. If you're always on the go, try to choose nutritious snacks.

  • Connect with your community
     

Spend time with friends and try talking about something other than your role as a caregiver. Think of activities you're interested in, the latest book you read, or the new show you watched. Share any hobbies you're trying to take on or the latest exercise routine you tried. You can also join a support group if you need to vent or speak to someone going through the same experience. The key is to surround yourself with positive people and not isolate yourself from the rest of the world.

  • Do whatever brings you joy.
     

Make time for things you enjoy, like crafts, reading, and volunteering at your child's school. You may not be able to squeeze in every hobby, but try focusing on the things that make you happy. Think of things that you consider therapeutic or relaxing. You shouldn't feel guilty about wanting to focus on your physical or mental health.

  • Ask for help when you need it.
     

Asking for help is one of the simplest things you can do to ease the load. Start by asking a family member, friend, or neighbor to run an errand for you or do research on home care agencies. If most relatives live far away, remember you don't have to do it alone. Family members can help with tasks they can handle online, such as managing finances. They can also help arrange and pay for respite care services so you can get a break for a few hours or days. In respite care, trained providers will look after your loved one in a safe environment while assisting with their medication, eating, exercising, or enjoying the outdoors. Medicare will cover most of the cost for up to five days in a row in a hospital or nursing facility for a person receiving hospice care. Medicaid may also offer assistance.

Your employer may be another great resource. Find out if your company offers support to caregivers as part of the company's employee assistance program (EAP). Many EAPs offer access to counseling and other trained professionals to help you cope. They can also help you research assisted living services and connect you with legal support. 

Caring for a loved one who's aging or has mobility issues can be rewarding, but it can also take a toll on your well-being. Pay attention to changes in how you feel or act or if you have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. If you need to speak to a PCP about your physical or mental health, call 832-548-9280 to schedule an appointment or visit our Find a Doctor tool.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/caregiver-brief.html

https://powerfulpatients.org/2016/11/09/the-importance-of-caregivers/

https://www.catholichealthservices.org/chs-speaks/5-ways-caregivers-can-manage-stress/

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/taking-care-yourself-tips-caregivers

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/caregiver-support/top-10-caregiver-tips-for-staying-healthy-and-active

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-respite-care

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