For the Caregiver: Tips to Stay Healthy

Reviewed Aug 16, 2016

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Summary

  • Ask for help and support.
  • Get organized.
  • Seek out and use resources.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Two years ago Barbara and husband Mike were just beginning to enjoy their empty-nest lifestyle when Barbara’s 85-year-old father, Jon, had a stroke. Jon moved into the couple’s home, and Barbara welcomed the opportunity to “give back to a man who has given me so much.” But over time, Barbara began to lose sight of her own needs. Consequently, Barbara is stressed out, overly tired, and resentful, and the increased strain has made it harder for her to manage her own health concerns, including high blood pressure.

Barbara’s story illustrates the importance of caring for oneself while caring for another. Try these tips to prevent the physical and emotional drain often associated with caregiving. Besides staying healthy, you will also be a better caregiver to your loved one.

Ask for help

Don’t assume that others will offer. Instead, list the tasks that you do that can be done by someone else, such as running errands, shuttling to doctors’ appointments, preparing meals, and visiting. Ask family members, neighbors, and friends for help with specific tasks. For example:

  • To an out-of-town sibling: “Can you drive down one weekend in June to watch Dad so that I can take the boys camping?”
  • To a friend: “Would you mind reading the newspaper to my mother for about an hour while I run to the grocery store?”

Seek support

Knowing that you’re not in it alone can be a source of relief, can help you to keep things in perspective and maintain a positive attitude. You may want to meet regularly with a friend or join a support group, which can offer:

  • An empathetic and nonjudgmental environment for sharing feelings—such as guilt, frustration, impatience, inadequacy, and anger—that people who are not in your situation may not understand
  • Encouragement to tackle the responsibilities and difficult decisions involved in caregiving
  • Practical advice and education on aging or for specific diseases or conditions
  • A chance to laugh and release stress through humor

Talking to a professional, such as a clergy member, a social worker, or a counselor can also be valuable.

Get organized

Getting organized will help you to feel in control. It involves:

  • Setting priorities, which should include time for yourself, your family, and your job
  • Setting limits: realize that you cannot possibly do it all. Learn to say “no” to your loved one without apology. Limit your commitment, leaving other family members accountable for some aspects of caregiving.
  • Setting reasonable expectations for yourself and your loved one
  • Eliminating unnecessary tasks

Seek out and use resources

Or be creative—maybe you can hire the teenager next door to run errands. Here are some ideas:

  • Local Area Agency on Aging
  • In-home care/respite care services
  • Adult day-care programs
  • Senior centers
  • Personal emergency response system
  • Friendly visitor programs, typically offered through places of worship, schools, and volunteer organizations
  • Errand and shopping services
  • Transportation services

The Eldercare Locator is a national service that connects families with many types of aging services in their community. See the Resources below.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle

Eating right, exercising regularly, and getting adequate rest will keep you physically and emotionally healthy. Visit your doctor on a regular basis and keep up with important screenings, such as blood pressure or breast exam. Avoid drinking alcohol as a way to cope with the stress of caregiving and keep a look out for symptoms of depression.

Make time for yourself

Hobbies, sports, books, music, a relaxing bath—such activities help release caregiver tension. If you have
trouble just walking away, consider scheduling “me” time and honor the engagement as if it were an important appointment. Maintain your social life—friends are not only a source of support, but also a source of stress-busting fun.

Resources

National Alliance for Caregiving
www.caregiving.org

Eldercare Locator
www.eldercare.gov

Family Alliance Caregiver Alliance
www.caregiver.org

By Christine P. Martin
Source: National Alliance for Caregiving, www.caregiving.org; AARP, www.aarp.org; Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents: How to Help, How to Survive by Claire Berman. Henry Holt, 1996; Fourteen Friends' Guide to Eldercaring by Fourteen Friends, LLC. Capital, 1999.

Summary

  • Ask for help and support.
  • Get organized.
  • Seek out and use resources.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Two years ago Barbara and husband Mike were just beginning to enjoy their empty-nest lifestyle when Barbara’s 85-year-old father, Jon, had a stroke. Jon moved into the couple’s home, and Barbara welcomed the opportunity to “give back to a man who has given me so much.” But over time, Barbara began to lose sight of her own needs. Consequently, Barbara is stressed out, overly tired, and resentful, and the increased strain has made it harder for her to manage her own health concerns, including high blood pressure.

Barbara’s story illustrates the importance of caring for oneself while caring for another. Try these tips to prevent the physical and emotional drain often associated with caregiving. Besides staying healthy, you will also be a better caregiver to your loved one.

Ask for help

Don’t assume that others will offer. Instead, list the tasks that you do that can be done by someone else, such as running errands, shuttling to doctors’ appointments, preparing meals, and visiting. Ask family members, neighbors, and friends for help with specific tasks. For example:

  • To an out-of-town sibling: “Can you drive down one weekend in June to watch Dad so that I can take the boys camping?”
  • To a friend: “Would you mind reading the newspaper to my mother for about an hour while I run to the grocery store?”

Seek support

Knowing that you’re not in it alone can be a source of relief, can help you to keep things in perspective and maintain a positive attitude. You may want to meet regularly with a friend or join a support group, which can offer:

  • An empathetic and nonjudgmental environment for sharing feelings—such as guilt, frustration, impatience, inadequacy, and anger—that people who are not in your situation may not understand
  • Encouragement to tackle the responsibilities and difficult decisions involved in caregiving
  • Practical advice and education on aging or for specific diseases or conditions
  • A chance to laugh and release stress through humor

Talking to a professional, such as a clergy member, a social worker, or a counselor can also be valuable.

Get organized

Getting organized will help you to feel in control. It involves:

  • Setting priorities, which should include time for yourself, your family, and your job
  • Setting limits: realize that you cannot possibly do it all. Learn to say “no” to your loved one without apology. Limit your commitment, leaving other family members accountable for some aspects of caregiving.
  • Setting reasonable expectations for yourself and your loved one
  • Eliminating unnecessary tasks

Seek out and use resources

Or be creative—maybe you can hire the teenager next door to run errands. Here are some ideas:

  • Local Area Agency on Aging
  • In-home care/respite care services
  • Adult day-care programs
  • Senior centers
  • Personal emergency response system
  • Friendly visitor programs, typically offered through places of worship, schools, and volunteer organizations
  • Errand and shopping services
  • Transportation services

The Eldercare Locator is a national service that connects families with many types of aging services in their community. See the Resources below.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle

Eating right, exercising regularly, and getting adequate rest will keep you physically and emotionally healthy. Visit your doctor on a regular basis and keep up with important screenings, such as blood pressure or breast exam. Avoid drinking alcohol as a way to cope with the stress of caregiving and keep a look out for symptoms of depression.

Make time for yourself

Hobbies, sports, books, music, a relaxing bath—such activities help release caregiver tension. If you have
trouble just walking away, consider scheduling “me” time and honor the engagement as if it were an important appointment. Maintain your social life—friends are not only a source of support, but also a source of stress-busting fun.

Resources

National Alliance for Caregiving
www.caregiving.org

Eldercare Locator
www.eldercare.gov

Family Alliance Caregiver Alliance
www.caregiver.org

By Christine P. Martin
Source: National Alliance for Caregiving, www.caregiving.org; AARP, www.aarp.org; Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents: How to Help, How to Survive by Claire Berman. Henry Holt, 1996; Fourteen Friends' Guide to Eldercaring by Fourteen Friends, LLC. Capital, 1999.

Summary

  • Ask for help and support.
  • Get organized.
  • Seek out and use resources.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Two years ago Barbara and husband Mike were just beginning to enjoy their empty-nest lifestyle when Barbara’s 85-year-old father, Jon, had a stroke. Jon moved into the couple’s home, and Barbara welcomed the opportunity to “give back to a man who has given me so much.” But over time, Barbara began to lose sight of her own needs. Consequently, Barbara is stressed out, overly tired, and resentful, and the increased strain has made it harder for her to manage her own health concerns, including high blood pressure.

Barbara’s story illustrates the importance of caring for oneself while caring for another. Try these tips to prevent the physical and emotional drain often associated with caregiving. Besides staying healthy, you will also be a better caregiver to your loved one.

Ask for help

Don’t assume that others will offer. Instead, list the tasks that you do that can be done by someone else, such as running errands, shuttling to doctors’ appointments, preparing meals, and visiting. Ask family members, neighbors, and friends for help with specific tasks. For example:

  • To an out-of-town sibling: “Can you drive down one weekend in June to watch Dad so that I can take the boys camping?”
  • To a friend: “Would you mind reading the newspaper to my mother for about an hour while I run to the grocery store?”

Seek support

Knowing that you’re not in it alone can be a source of relief, can help you to keep things in perspective and maintain a positive attitude. You may want to meet regularly with a friend or join a support group, which can offer:

  • An empathetic and nonjudgmental environment for sharing feelings—such as guilt, frustration, impatience, inadequacy, and anger—that people who are not in your situation may not understand
  • Encouragement to tackle the responsibilities and difficult decisions involved in caregiving
  • Practical advice and education on aging or for specific diseases or conditions
  • A chance to laugh and release stress through humor

Talking to a professional, such as a clergy member, a social worker, or a counselor can also be valuable.

Get organized

Getting organized will help you to feel in control. It involves:

  • Setting priorities, which should include time for yourself, your family, and your job
  • Setting limits: realize that you cannot possibly do it all. Learn to say “no” to your loved one without apology. Limit your commitment, leaving other family members accountable for some aspects of caregiving.
  • Setting reasonable expectations for yourself and your loved one
  • Eliminating unnecessary tasks

Seek out and use resources

Or be creative—maybe you can hire the teenager next door to run errands. Here are some ideas:

  • Local Area Agency on Aging
  • In-home care/respite care services
  • Adult day-care programs
  • Senior centers
  • Personal emergency response system
  • Friendly visitor programs, typically offered through places of worship, schools, and volunteer organizations
  • Errand and shopping services
  • Transportation services

The Eldercare Locator is a national service that connects families with many types of aging services in their community. See the Resources below.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle

Eating right, exercising regularly, and getting adequate rest will keep you physically and emotionally healthy. Visit your doctor on a regular basis and keep up with important screenings, such as blood pressure or breast exam. Avoid drinking alcohol as a way to cope with the stress of caregiving and keep a look out for symptoms of depression.

Make time for yourself

Hobbies, sports, books, music, a relaxing bath—such activities help release caregiver tension. If you have
trouble just walking away, consider scheduling “me” time and honor the engagement as if it were an important appointment. Maintain your social life—friends are not only a source of support, but also a source of stress-busting fun.

Resources

National Alliance for Caregiving
www.caregiving.org

Eldercare Locator
www.eldercare.gov

Family Alliance Caregiver Alliance
www.caregiver.org

By Christine P. Martin
Source: National Alliance for Caregiving, www.caregiving.org; AARP, www.aarp.org; Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents: How to Help, How to Survive by Claire Berman. Henry Holt, 1996; Fourteen Friends' Guide to Eldercaring by Fourteen Friends, LLC. Capital, 1999.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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