While caregiving can be one of the most rewarding jobs out there, it can also be physically and mentally demanding, especially for informal – or unpaid – caregivers. In fact, while caregivers are doing all they can to support their loved one, they often end up neglecting their own health needs. Not only can this impact the caregiver’s quality of life, but also the quality of care they give to others. Here are a few ways caregivers can take care of themselves:
Get some time off with respite care
If you need a few hours to meet with your book club or a few days off for an upcoming vacation, respite care is the solution. Respite care allows caregivers some time off from their caregiving responsibilities whether it’s for a few hours or several days. This service can take place at home, an adult day center, or a care facility. According to The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, even a few hours of respite a week can improve a caregiver’s well-being. Respite care may be provided at a low-cost by nonprofit agencies, like your local Area Agency on Aging, or even a trusted family member or friend.
Join a support group
Caregiving can be a stressful and emotionally exhausting job. If you have ever felt alone in this struggle, know that you are not. It can be comforting to attend a support group where you can connect with others who understand the demands of caregiving. It is also a great way to learn from other caregivers and get advice on problems related to the job. You may be able to find a support group through a local church or hospital, or on MyPlaceCT’s Family Caregivers page. You can even connect with other caregivers through online communities or Facebook groups.
Establish a good sleep routine
Proper rest is an important part of being successful at any job, however over a third of caregivers report getting less than 7 hours of sleep in a day, according to the CDC. Not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your health and your ability to provide care. Setting a sleep schedule that allows you to get the full rest you need can boost your physical and mental health so you can give the best care to your loved one.
Take care of your physical health
It can be easy to forget about your own health needs when your job is to care for others. In fact, according to the CDC, caregivers are at increased risk for having multiple chronic diseases for that very reason. However, it is possible to tend to your loved one’s needs as well as your own. Try carving out small blocks of time to dedicate toward establishing health habits. This can include going for a walk through your neighborhood or eating a healthy lunch. Make sure to also regularly visit your doctor for check-ups and preventative services.