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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Tips to Look After Yourself While Caregiving

It's important to keep up your own health while you're taking care of your loved one. You won't be much help to others if you let yourself get stressed and run-down.

Try these tips to help you manage your loved one's care and your own well-being at the same time.

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Why Caregivers Need Care, Too

Since Jeanne Erdmann's mother was diagnosed three years ago with dementia, she has taken on the daily responsibilities of bathing and dressing her mom, preparing her meals, making sure she takes her medicine, and managing her finances. "It wears you down. I think it's the grind of having someone there every day who needs more and more attention," says Erdmann, a medical journalist in Wentzville, Mo. Although she says she's happy to be there for her mom, Erdmann acknowledges the toll caregiving ...

Read the Why Caregivers Need Care, Too article > >

Ask for help. You can't do everything yourself, so don't try. Get other family members and friends involved.

Be specific about what you need. Have your brother do a round of grocery shopping. See if a neighbor can keep an eye on things for half an hour while take a break. Look into community resources and see what sort of help is available.

Get support. If your friends have trouble understanding your situation, join a caregiver support group. You'll meet people who know what you're going through and can offer advice. Try your local area agency on aging to find out about groups near you.

Take care of your body. Make sure you don't ignore your own health. Get regular checkups. Try to eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep.

Stay mentally healthy. Caregiving can be emotionally draining, but you don't want to let that turn into feelings of depression. If you feel overwhelmed, set up an appointment with a counselor or therapist.

Focus on what’s most important. You may sometimes feel like you have more things to do in a day than you have time for. So concentrate on what you have to get done and let the rest go. The world won't end if you put off cleaning out the shed for a few months or if you skip having the New Year's party this year.

Stay connected. Make an effort to keep close to the people you care about. You don't want to let your workload as a caregiver put a strain on your other relationships. Your friends and family can be a huge source of support while you take care of your loved one.

Consider taking a leave from work. Time off from your job may not be an option financially. But remember that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick relative.

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