Caring for an older adult can be extremely stressful and time consuming. If you’re a caregiver who is becoming stretched too thin to muster the energy for self-care, let alone squeeze it in every day, it’s time to reevaluate.
Caregivers in crisis
Around 43 million Americans are unpaid caregivers to people with serious health issues. Family members and friends often take on caregiving responsibility with no formal training, and do so in addition to other major responsibilities like jobs and children. The burden of doing so much can take a heavy toll. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “Studies have linked informal caregiving to a variety of long-term health problems. Caregivers are more likely to have heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and excess weight. Caregivers are also at risk for depression or anxiety. And they’re more likely to have problems with memory and paying attention.”
Caregivers often neglect their own needs. It’s important to take care of your health and engage in proper self-care. Eat right. Your ability to function properly can hinge on good eating habits. Choose healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and drink plenty of water.
- – Exercise. You need 30 minutes of daily exercise to reduce stress. You can break that into portions that fit into your day; five or 10 minutes here and there is fine.
- – Get sufficient sleep. Your body requires between seven to 9 hours of sleep daily. If you can’t sleep through the night because you are busy caregiving, get some help overnight or for a few hours during the day so you can nap.
- – Mental health. Caregivers are at higher risk for mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. You might endure high amounts of stress, frustration and can struggle emotionally. The experts at the Mayo Clinic warn that extended periods of stress as a caregiver can lead to burnout. Because of these concerns, some professionals recommend seeing a therapist if you are struggling.
- – Socialize. Experts say you shouldn’t neglect taking a break and spending time with friends. Keep up relationships so that you don’t become isolated. If you’re a senior, take note that isolation is becoming a serious health issue. If you notice that you’re not spending as much time with friends and family, make a point to schedule visits together so you can stay socially active.
As a caregiver you might feel guilty taking time away for yourself. However, it’s important to tend your own health, and if you are too weary and stressed to function, you won’t perform as well for your patient. AgingCare offers some terrific suggestions for finding ways to make time for self-care.
- – Prioritize. Make a list of everything you need to accomplish and then make a second list that puts the items in order by priority. At the top of your second list should be items with firm deadlines and items that carry the most weight. Then break the list into portions and do what you can, when you can. Bump up your own healthcare and self-care interests on the list, not down.
- – Let go of perfection. Allow tasks to be “good enough.” Trying to accomplish everything to perfection will just eat your time and energy. Tasks like organizing your senior’s closet can be done well enough to show you care and are tending to your loved one’s needs, but don’t need to be perfect. Similarly, your own house doesn’t need to be spotless. Use shortcuts if you need to. Throw things in a box and set it out of sight. Deep cleaning and better organizing can wait until your life is quieter.
- – Enlist help. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Your spouse and kids can help out at home, or invest in a routine house cleaning service. Paying for some in-home care for your senior relieves some of your burden as well. Professionals offer services ranging from medical assistance to running errands.
Care for the caregiver
As the caregiver of a senior, you need to make self-care a priority. Without meeting your own needs, your mental and physical health can considerably suffer. Remember, making time for yourself means you have more to offer your loved one. Taking better care of yourself allows you the opportunity to take better care of your senior.
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If you or an aging loved-one are considering Senior Care Services in Orlando FL, please contact the caring staff at Flourish in Place Home Care Solutions today. Proudly serving Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Brevard Counties. Call 407-845-9797.