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Caring for The Caregiver

In honor of National Caregiver’s Month, it is important to think of yourself, the Caregiver. Caregivers perform a very difficult job and often neglect themselves in the process. However, it does not help their loved one if the caregiver is ill and can no longer take care of them effectively. It is imperative that caregivers maintain their own well being. Your general well-being affects how you view life and your ability to cope. Taking care of yourself is important and involves:

  • eating 3 balanced meals per day

  • exercising daily

  • enough sleep/rest

  • allowing yourself enough leisure time

“I have to get mom ready to go to the doctor. I don’t have time to eat right now. I’ll get something later.” Does this sound familiar? As a caregiver, remember that skipping meals, eating poorly, or drinking lots of caffeine is not good for you. Food is fuel for your body, if you don’t give it the fuel it needs, your body will not work for you. Try to eat simple, nutritious, well-balanced meals.

“Trying to juggle between work, family and caring for dad just doesn’t leave much time for exercise.” However, being physically active can provide a much needed outlet that is relaxing and allows you to feel better able to cope… Stretching, walking, jogging, swimming, or bicycling are examples of revitalizing exercises. Consult your doctor before starting an exercise routine. Your doctor can help design a program that fits your individual needs.

“I get up throughout the night with dad and I am exhausted.” Sleep restores and allows you to perform throughout the day. If your loved one is restless at night and disturbs your sleep, consult your doctor and fellow caregivers on possible ways to handle the situation. You may need to have outside help in the evenings to allow you time to sleep. If you are unable to sleep because of tension, practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or visualizing pleasant scenes can be helpful. Continued sleep disturbance may be a sign of major depression, which needs medical attention.

“I can’t take time for myself. It takes all of my time and energy to care for my parents, and manage my own family.” Leisure time allows you to feel better and enhances your ability to cope with your situation. Having time to yourself to read a book, visit a friend, or watch TV can also bring enjoyment and relaxation, and break the constant pattern and pressure of caregiving.

Those who care for other people can do a better job of caregiving if time and attention also are given to their own personal needs. In other words, if the caregiver becomes ill, who will care for their loved one? Before you get to that place, please remember that Meeting your own needs will satisfy you and give you additional strength and vigor to bring to your caregiving tasks. For those caregivers who follow these guidelines you’re right on track. Taking care of yourself will make your caregiving experience more of a joy versus task, allowing you to enjoy the time spent with your loved one.

For more information on Caregiving, Resources in the community for Caregivers as well as loved ones contact the Caring Workplace at (314) 802-5106.