Don't Foget Yourself

Being a caregiver is a tremendous responsibility. Not only should you consider the health and well-being of your senior, but also of yourself.

Take some time to consider these points:

• How stressed are you?
As stresses build one upon another, you may also lose ability to help your loved one. Ask yourself what you can do to reduce the stress on yourself.

• Get others to help.
If you are the primary caregiver, make it clear to others that if you have to do the job all alone, over time you may break down (and possibly drop responsibility for Mom or Dad altogether). It’s not easy, but try to develop a procedure, a couple of key phrases, perhaps, that you are comfortable with that enable you to ask for help.

• Protect your Body and Mind.
Surveys indicate that caregivers are less likely than non caregivers to practice preventative self-care, including health care.

• Confront your Emotions.
Research indicates that people who take an active role in dealing with caregiving issues (and solving related problems) are less likely to feel stressed than those who simply worry or feel helpless.

Here are eight ways to help yourself!

1. Workout: Exercise and enjoy something you like to do (walking, dancing, biking, running, swimming, etc.) for a minimum of 20 minutes at least three times per week.

2. Meditate: Sit still and breathe deeply with your mind as quiet as possible whenever things feel like they are moving too quickly or you are feeling overwhelmed.

3. Ask for help: According to a national survey by Home Instead Senior Care of adults who are currently providing care for an aging loved one, seventy-two percent do so without any outside help. Reach out to others for aid.

4. Take a break: Make arrangements for reliable fill-in help (family, friends, volunteers, or professional caregivers) and take single days or even a week’s vacation. When you’re away, stay away. Talk about everything but caregiving and that book you haven’t been able to get to.

5. Eat well: Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, proteins including nuts, beans and whole grains.

6. Take care of yourself: Just as you make sure your loved one gets to the doctor, make sure you get your annual checkup. Being a caregiver provides excuses for skipping many chores. Don’t skip your checkups.

7. Indulge: Treat yourself to a foot massage or manicure; take a walk, rent a movie, have a nice dinner out or take in a concert to get away from the situation and to reward yourself for the wonderful care you are providing to your aging relative.

8. Support: Find a local caregiver-support group that will help you understand that what you are feeling is normal for someone in your position.

Photo: Exercise is just one way to take care of yourself so you can take care of others.

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