You Matter, Too! Advice for Caregivers on Caring for Themselves

"What Now?" by Kiran Foster, via Flickr, Creative Commons

"What Now?" by Kiran Foster, via Flickr, Creative Commons

Contributed by Lydia Chan of Alzheimerscaregiver.net, in recognition of National Caregiver Month. Thank you, Lydia!

Taking care of someone with an illness is difficult in any circumstance, but it can be particularly challenging for the caregiver due to the amount of time spent with the sufferer. With November being National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregiver’s Month, it’s important for all Alzheimer’s caregivers to practice self-care along with caring for their patient to keep themselves happy and healthy. The following are a few things that caregivers can do to take care of themselves and stay positive.

1. Stay social. With all the hard work that caregivers do every day, it can be easy to get caught in the same routine every day. Get up, take care of your patient or loved one, go home, sleep, and repeat. It’s important to spend time with friends and family who will lift you up and keep you from getting caught in a rut.

2. Take steps to manage stress. Taking care of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be one of the most difficult tasks someone can take on, causing stress and intense anxiety. Try techniques such as meditation, exercise, deep breathing, or

yoga to manage some of that stress that may begin to build up. You should also be sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, drinking lots of water, and eating properly.

Pets are another great way to help manage stress. Author Kathryn Oda from HuffPost mentions in one of her articles how she struggled for years with depression and anxiety, but after coming home with her dog, her life changed for the better. Pets get you out of bed every day and force you to care for something else, which reminds you to take equal care of yourself. Just be sure that you have the time to commit to raising a puppy, or consider adopting an adult dog who needs a little less attention.

3. Delegate responsibilities. If you’re finding yourself constantly running out of time to do things, consider coming up with a system or schedule to help you delegate tasks. You could also hire help to make sure you’re getting everything done. If you can’t find the time to clean your home on a regular basis, hire a maid to come in once a week or once every other week. If you just can’t find the time to go home and walk your dog, consider hiring a dog walker. Most importantly, ask for help when you need it. There’s nothing wrong with relying on others when you get overwhelmed.

4. Get comfortable using the word “no.” Sometimes, it’s very important to free up time for yourself. Even though it’s good to socialize and spend time with friends and family, it’s also healthy to give yourself time for something as simple as a long relaxing bath or an hour or two to read a book. If your friends are trying to push you into a party after a long day, don’t feel bad saying no and give yourself some “you” time. You’ll feel better for it.

No matter what kind of career you have, self-care should always be high on your priority list. When you spend so much of your time taking care of someone else, it can be hard to justify taking time for yourself. Don’t feel selfish for wanting to take time off to recuperate and relax. Follow these tips as a quick start to making sure that you’re putting self-care first and caregiving a close secon