by Dr. Marla E. Jirak, Owner, CoachSmart Consulting, LLC
It is important for caregivers to focus on self-care to avoid the risk for depression, drug and alcohol abuse, over-eating and developing a chronic disease.
The harmful effects on a caregiver’s health when they neglect to care for themselves can interfere with their ability to properly care for their loved one. Here are some tips to help.
1. Eat Nutritious Food
Caregivers tend to skip meals and consume less healthy food as they eat on the go. The outcome of a poor diet can be unstable mood, decreased energy and a weakened immune system. These can make caregivers less patient, sick and less able to provide care.
Here are a few healthy choices that can be added to a busy caregiver’s diet:
- Plan healthy meals for the week.
- Prepare high protein snacks in small zip-lock bags.
- Include vegetables with all meals.
2. Restful Sleep
With all the responsibilities caregivers face when providing care, they don’t feel they have enough hours in the day to get their regular responsibilities accomplished. This leads to getting to bed much later than they like. We need seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night.
Try these tips to improve quality and duration of sleep:
- Set a sleep schedule; go to bed and wake at the same time.
- Implement a bedtime routine; shut off computers/phones and take time to relax before going to bed.
- Use your bed only for sleep; avoid watching television or working in bed.
3. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise helps reduce stress, improve sleep, reduces daily tension and depression, and increases energy. This can improve the care provided to a loved one and help caregivers be more resilient to the daily stress and strain.
These simple exercises fit easily into a caregiver’s schedule:
- Go for a brisk 10-minute walk.
- Do an online Zumba class.
- Meditate daily for 10-15 minutes.
4. Reduce Stress
Caregiver stress can lead to caregiver burnout.
Here are a few coping tips:
- Join a caregiver support group.
- Take time to go for coffee or lunch with a friend.
- Watch funny movies with other family members or a group of friends.
Whatever you choose, make sure to get time away from the caregiving role to do something enjoyable.
Lastly, the best self-care may be to consider assisted living or private in-home care.