My 5 Best Tips for Staying Healthy While Caregiving
My 5 Best Tips for Staying Healthy While Caregiving
Caregiving can be rewarding, but it is HARD WORK! And unfortunately, it can be underappreciated. In today’s post, we will talk about a few ways for staying healthy while caregiving, because you matter!
The caregiver can be overwhelmed, especially if they’ve had caregiving fall on their lap unexpectedly.
5 Ways to Staying Healthy While Caregiving
I have been in your shoes. I took care of my mother, who in the end required hospice care at home, until she passed away and more recently I’m providing caregiving for my husband. Here are five ways for staying healthy while caregiving.
1. Identify the Loved One’s Needs
Does the person needing help need someone to help them with cooking, transportation, bathing, dressing, finances, etc? This list can go on and on. It’s important to identify exactly what help your loved one needs.
Make a list of everything she needs. Here are a few things to consider:
- Transportation to and from doctor’s appointments
- Doing groceries
- Picking up medication at pharmacy
- Paying bills
- Bathing and/or dressing, personal hygiene
- Managing medication
- Cooking and feeding herself
- Household chores; laundry, cleaning, lawn maintenance, dusting
- Coordinating appointments
Don’t forget the less obvious things as well.
- Reading and/or writing
- Going to church
- Physical exercise
- Walking the dog
- Caring for the garden
- Making phone calls and video calls to loved ones
These are just a few things to consider. Keep a list and add to it as you discover a new area of need.
2. It Takes a Village!
Don’t take this on by yourself! This is one area that I learned quickly was a must! Caregiving 24/7 is draining! Many times you take second place to your loved one and with that mentality, you both lose.
People are going to approach you stating that they are there to help. I know sometimes these are just words, but you will never know that unless you take them up on their offer.
Just as I recommend you keep a running list of your loved ones needs, keep one of the people that have offered to help and if they’ve offered a specific type of help, jot that down as well.
You are not superwoman! You need all the help you can get. If no one has approached to help, then you should take that first step and let them know you need help. Sometimes people just assume you know they are there to help.
Put the Village to Work, Girl!
We all have things we do really well and others we truly screw up. Go thru both lists you’ve created and begin matching them up as best you can.
If you know that someone loves to cook and has offered to help, ask them if they could prepare a few freezer meals for your loved one. Another way is to ask them to put in an extra portion when they cook for their family that they can bring for your loved one.
Is there someone that goes to your loved one’s same church and wouldn’t mind picking her up and taking her to church?
Is there a neighborhood kid that would like to make a few dollars by walking your loved one’s dog?
The Village Can Be Long Distanced too.
This brings up another point. Do not discard long distance help. Loved ones that are geographically far can still provide help.
Maybe they can be responsible for paying the loved ones bills, managing the finances, paying for care coverage for you to take scheduled time off. Someone can coordinate their appointments or make phone calls and search the internet to gather information needed.
There are many ways to welcome their help. Don’t discard them too quickly.
3. Schedule Fixed Days Off
No one can work 24/7 without getting burned out. You, my dear, are no exception. Schedule some regular time off as often as you need. I would suggest you stick with a specific day and times. For example, take off every Sunday or every Tuesday and Thursday after 3pm. Pick a schedule and stick to it.
This will help you plan some much needed time for rest and recharging, for hanging out with friends, for enjoying a hobby. You name it.
And no, do not feel guilty about this. You cannot give what you do not have. Recharging will be more beneficial for your loved one and yourself.
Enlist the help of other family members to cover for you or hire someone that can cover for you. Talk to your family about this and maybe you can all put your resources together to make this happen. But be firm and take the time off.
4. Make Some Me Time for Yourself Daily
I remember when my children were babies. Whenever they would take a nap, that was my cue for break time. I know some people who would nap whenever their babies napped. That’s awesome.
When caregiving, you will need daily time for yourself, even if it’s just 30 minutes. Have a plan for how you will spend your Me Time. Maybe you could go for a 30-minute walk. If 30 minutes is too long, break it up into three 10-minute walks.
Just because your loved one has certain diet restrictions, doesn’t mean you do too. Make a healthy meal that you enjoy.
Here are some additional ideas to consider for your Me Time.
- Read a book
- Do a Bible Study
- Keep a Prayer Journal
- Practice a Hobby
- Get a Work-out In
- Watch your favorite sitcom
- Binge on YouTube or other social media
- Do your nails/toes
- Give yourself a facial or a hair mask
- Dance, play an instrument, Sing
- Learn a new skill
- Write in your journal
- Create a blog post
- Call a friend
5. Call On Your Tribe
Even caregivers need someone to care for them. This is where your tribe comes in. A few friends that we can turn to. A shoulder to cry on. Someone to laugh with us. That person that is always available at any time of day.
You need to enlist a group of friends that you can turn to for staying mentally healthy while caregiving. If you have a few, that is even better than just one or two.
Be upfront with them and let them know that caregiving can be challenging and that you’d like to be able to count on them when necessary.
The best people for this tribe are people that won’t judge you. There may be times when you just need to vent. That doesn’t make you a bad person.
If you can’t find someone, then schedule an appointment with a mental health professional (psychologist, counselor, therapist, social worker) or a spiritual mentor (priest, pastor, minister, etc.)
I cannot stress how important this person or tribe is for your own mental and emotional well-being.
Conclusion of Staying Healthy While Caregiving
- You are not a deserted island. You are part of a village. Building a community around a loved one in need benefits all involved, including yourself, especially yourself. If you are supported, you will be able to provide more complete and diverse care for your loved one while remaining mentally healthy.
- I know that at first there’s a lot of work, matching up needs to people that can help, but in the long run, everyone benefits.
- Schedule time off and clear your head from caregiving.
- Take a bit of time for yourself every day and a specific day off every week if possible. Use this time to recharge, rest, relax.
- Call your tribe. Enjoy time together. Share your time with someone outside of your caregiving environment.
Do what you need to do to stay mentally, physically and emotionally healthy. You cannot help anyone unless you are well cared for. So, reduce as much stress as you can by sharing the tasks, calling on friends, having some much needed Me Time and creating community.
Take Action Today
How have you stayed mentally healthy while caregiving?
Are there other ways you’ve found help you stay mentally healthy?
Have you offered to be part of a caregiver’s tribe? How did it go?
Written by Carmen
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