Whether you’re caring for a spouse, family member, or have been hired to support a senior who needs additional help, care-giving can be challenging no matter the circumstance. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 53% of caregivers have experienced a decline in their health that has impacted their ability to provide care. Because of the stressful nature of the job, many caregivers experience elevated levels of depression and anxiety, a decline in physical health, and comprised immune function. While care-giving provides support to those who need it, caregivers often forget to care for themselves. If you are a caregiver or know someone who is, here are a few simple ways to make sure you’re getting the care you need to adequately provide support to those who need it.
Prioritize eating well
For some people, especially for spouses, care-giving can be a full-time job. Oftentimes basic tasks, like preparing meals and making time to eat, can get pushed to the side to make time for priorities. However, eating balanced meals throughout the day will help you stay healthy and decrease the risk of illness, headaches, and fatigue. In addition to consuming healthy meals comprised of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, caregivers should make sure to consume plenty of water throughout the day.
Exercising after a long day of care-giving can feel impossible. However endorphins released from physical activity can help boost your mood in addition to giving you extra energy to finish daily tasks. Physical activity can also help make daily care-giving tasks, like lifting or pushing a wheelchair, much easier.
You don’t have to spend hours at the gym to reap the benefits of physical activity. In fact, just taking a walk, swimming, or enrolling in aerobics or yoga classes will help improve your health, while being gentle on your body.
As a caregiver, it’s easy to be hard on yourself and constantly ask questions like, “am I doing enough?” However, it’s crucial for caregivers to practice self-compassion. This means giving yourself credit for the work you do without criticizing yourself for what you could have done better. Start by carving out just two minutes of your day to reflect on all the wonderful things you were able to accomplish.
Try meditation or other mind-body practices
Practicing meditation, yoga, or tai chi can help you focus on your breathing during difficult or frustrating moments. These practices can also help reduce feelings of stress that can come with the care-giving profession. You can start by taking a yoga class, spending a few minutes in silence, or using an app on your phone to meditate.
It’s not uncommon for caregivers to feel isolated, depressed, or lonely. It’s important to stay connected to your support system. Make plans with friends and family during some of your respite time, or you might even consider scheduling a phone call with a friend during your loved one’s rest time.
Our Carespring facilities in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Northern Kentucky witness how hard caregivers work each day. If you or a loved one is a caregiver, you might consider using these techniques to stay happy and healthy while giving your loved one the support they need.