Caring for your aging or ill parent can wreak havoc on a caregiver’s health. Add to the mix, caring for your own family and perhaps holding down a job and you can see how important it is to take a step back and take care of yourself. You may be the type of person who says, “I can do this all myself,” but when it comes to raising a family, pursuing a career and caring for aging parents, the toll those tasks can take on your health could be devastating.
Here are some tips that you can incorporate into your daily routine that will help you remain healthy and available for those who are relying on you:
- Did you know that meditating only ten minutes a day can drastically improve your emotional health? Whether you chant a mantra or simply choose a quiet spot to meditate on something that brings you joy (visualization of a relaxing environment, for example) taking ten minutes out of your day can help you face whatever comes with a better, more positive attitude.
- Stockpile your freezer with heat and eat dinners. If you have limited amounts of time to cook, making meals in batches for the week ahead can relieve the “what’s for dinner” questions you may be faced with when you come home from work. Making meals in batches, freezing them and even labeling them with heating instructions can help you not only eat healthier meals but will make meal-time a breeze. If you spend your time driving back and forth between your aging relatives’ home, your home, work and running errands having access to healthy snacks can be a lifesaver and help you avoid driving through a fast food joint for a meal. Keep nuts, dried fruits, vegetables or even a peanut butter sandwich with you. High fiber, fresh, whole grain snacks are the best.
- Do you ever notice that when you rush to complete a task you sometimes either make a mess of it, break something, or injure someone? As a caregiver, there are myriad pressing tasks, but slowing down and completing them will help you stay focused and may even help relieve some stress. Remember, you don’t have to do it all alone; recruit friends or family members to help with some of the tasks you never seem to get to – spring cleaning, lawn maintenance, bathroom cleaning, etc.
- You need your rest. Whether you find a way to take a day or two off from your caregiving duties or whether you make it a practice to get eight hours of sleep a night, relaxation and getting enough sleep go a long way in helping you stay health. If you’re losing sleep, you will obviously be fatigued, but lack of sleep can negatively impact your mood and cause anxiety. One way that caregivers find that helps relieve the stress of leaving their senior parents alone for the overnight or for long stretches of time is to have a home medical emergency device. These devices provide the aging individual with a medical alert pendant which means that at the push of a button they have immediate access to a trained individual that will initiate emergency medical response teams and contact you as well. These devices are ideal for both peace of mind for the caregiver and the individual wearing it.
It may seem counter-intuitive to you to take a day off and you may feel guilty about it, but talk with your family members and let them know that in order to continue to care for them you need to care for yourself as well.