As a caregiver, you are always concerned for your loved one. Sometimes in the midst of things, it’s easy to let your own health and well-being slip. But it is just as important to care for yourself as it is to care for your loved one. As simple as it is to submerge yourself in the needs of others, remember you have needs too. Here are some tips on how to care for yourself – in case you forget!
Reduce Personal Stress
When you start to feel stressed, recognize the signs. There are numerous signs of stress that can affect your coping abilities, your care giving dynamic and your relationship with the care recipient. Some early signs of stress include sleep problems, forgetfulness, irritability, denial, anger and anxiety. Sometimes it is necessary to remind yourself of what you can and cannot control. Trying to change things that are out of your control will only lead to frustration. It is important to identify your stress relievers and employ them as often as possible. Caregiver.org suggests that simple actions such as exercise, gardening, meditation, or even getting coffee with a friend can be tremendous stress relievers for caregivers.
Set goals and Seek Solutions
When setting goals, be specific about what the goal is and what the possible steps are that you can take towards it. For example, if your goal is to take a break from care giving, take the extra step to say “I will take a break from care giving every Thursday for the next month,” and plan a stress-relieving activity such as taking a walk or seeing a friend.
Refusing help when you need it shouldn’t be a constant choice. The phrase, ‘Thank you, but I’m fine,” is overused in the mouths of caregivers. You should be able to talk directly to people and be honest about how you feel. Asking for and accepting help is an important step in taking care of yourself. Pick the best time to make a request and prepare a list of things that need to get done. If someone offers to help, take advantage of the opportunity to get some well-deserved rest or relaxation, or to attend to your own priorities. Remind yourself (over and over if necessary) that it is OK and important to take a break from time to time.
Remember, your health as a caregiver is just as important as the health of your loved one. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to effectively care for someone else. If you feel stressed, reach out to friends, family, or the Alzheimer’s Association hotline found on their website www.alz.org.