Taking care of someone who needs assistance can be rewarding. But being a caregiver can cause emotional and physical stress. When you provide long term care to someone who has an illness, you may be more vulnerable to sickness, anxiety, medical problems and depression. “Caregivers who devote all their time and energy to a sick spouse or relative tend to forget their own health needs” (Salgado, 2015). It is important that you, as a caregiver, also take care of yourself physically and mentally. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to effectively care for someone else. You need to be aware of your own health and well being and be cognizant of the signs of stress. If you are a caregiver, take steps to put your health on tract. Try the following:
1) Ask for help: Ask others to help you for a few hours a week in order to refresh yourself physically and mentally. By refreshing yourself you are able to give the best care to your loved one. This time gives you the opportunity to read a book, run errands on your to-do list or even catch up to see your doctors.
2) Seek social support: Take some time to talk to a friend and socialize. When possible take time to go out with friends, even if it means seeing your friend for a couple of minutes or couple of hours. If possible, make plans to go out for a couple of hours, or invite your friend over to talk. Being with a support system is key to managing stress associated with caregiving. Find support groups or other social networks and join them if you can. It can be a great source for encouragement from others in similar situations.
3) Focus on what you can provide: Nobody is perfect and nobody is a perfect caregiver. Feeling guilty is normal but remember that you are doing the best you can.
4) Avoid thinking negatively: A little voice in your head may be saying “I’m not doing a good job taking care of my sister” or “It is selfish of me to have free time.” These thoughts may be preventing you from taking care of yourself and it definitely does not mean that you love them any less if you want to spend time away from them. It is important that you recharge yourself and get away for a while so that you can return refreshed to taking care of your loved one. Think positively by telling yourself “If I get away for an hour I will also be helping my loved one by providing them with the best care because I will feel refreshed.”
5) Set goals: Realistic goals are important. Be realistic about your time and energy such as taking short time to exercise in order to prevent feeling overwhelmed. Some hospitals or support groups may offer exercise programs for loved ones and caregivers. This will be great for the two of you to get out of the house, meet people with similar situations and receive support from others.
6) Check your stress level: Stress can lead to health issues. It is important to reduce stress everyday. Try meditating while in the shower, take deep slow breaths while sitting, think positively about situations, spend time thinking about people or places that make you smile, think about happy memories. Do what it takes to help you reduce your stress level.
7) Take care of your body: Re-evaluate your health and take care of your body. Eat healthy foods, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, find time to exercise.
It is important to remember that taking care of your health makes you a more effective caregiver which helps the person who is ill. Take necessary steps to put your health on tract. If you are a caregiver, what are some suggestions you can add to the list?