Caregivers need care too
You can't provide good care when you're feeling run-down. Taking breaks, coping with your emotions and staying healthy are vital.
Caring for an aging or disabled friend or relative can be very rewarding.
It can also be very tiring and stressful. Being a caregiver carries a high risk for burnout. It's important to protect yourself from getting run-down.
If you're not in good health—both mentally and physically—how can you provide another person with the care he or she needs?
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and other experts offer this advice:
Get your rest. Getting enough sleep every night is essential. Try to work in naps or breaks during the day.
Keep fit. Exercise improves your mood, helps relieve stress and helps you sleep better at night. Staying strong is also important if your loved one needs physical help to get around.
Eat well. A well-balanced diet will help you avoid illness and stay energized. Try not to skip meals.
Don't shut down your emotions. Being a caregiver stirs many feelings. You may feel guilty, angry, sad, helpless or overworked, sometimes all at once. Talking over your feelings with a close friend, clergy person or counselor may help. Or you can talk with other people going through the same thing in a caregiver support group.
Take a break every day. Even if it's only for 15 or 20 minutes, do something for yourself each day. Finding a healthy, quick release, whether it's taking a short walk or cleaning the house, is better than letting stress build up to a level you can't control.
Look at the big picture. Though it may seem like it takes all your time and energy, don't let caregiving be your entire life. Visit with friends and talk about anything but your caregiving responsibilities. See a movie, listen to some music or read a book. Keep up with your hobbies and interests.
Get away. Plan to take the occasional long weekend or a week of vacation. Talk to social agencies about lining up respite care for your loved one, or ask another capable friend or relative to fill in. There may also be an adult day care center that can provide care for a half or full day.