Skip to content

    50+: Live Better, Longer

    Font Size

    Take Care of Yourself When You're the Caregiver

    By Kara Mayer Robinson
    WebMD Magazine - Feature

    When Terri Corcoran and her husband Vince were newlyweds, they not only lived together -- they worked together too, organizing scientific conferences and publishing an arts magazine.

    But as they settled into married life, things changed dramatically for them. Vince had a genetic condition and became disabled. "He retired because of the illness and I stopped working to care for him," says Corcoran, 65, who lives in Falls Church, VA.

    Recommended Related to Healthy Seniors

    Eating for Longevity

    Is there such a thing as a longevity diet? Increasingly, studies suggest the answer is yes. Around the world, certain groups of people enjoy exceptionally long lives. Consider the lucky people of Okinawa. These Pacific Islanders have an average life expectancy of more than 81 years, compared to 78 in the United States and a worldwide average of just 67. Closer to home, members of the Seventh Day Adventists, who typically eat vegetarian diets, outlive their neighbors by four to seven years on average...

    Read the Eating for Longevity article > >

    Corcoran took charge of Vince's medical and personal care. She made changes to their home to make it more accessible, took care of his hygiene, and helped him live as full a life as he could.

    They were the most challenging years of her life, she says, but she got through them by learning to take care of herself. She stayed active, ate, and slept well, and found outside support.

    Experts agree that your own health and well-being are essential to caring for your loved one. If you're sick and exhausted, it can be tough on everyone, says Marion Somers, PhD, author of Elder Care Made Easier.  "Remember what they tell you on an airplane: Put your own oxygen mask on first, then help those in your care."

    Pencil in Personal Time

    It's easy to fall into a routine of caring for your loved one 24/7. To avoid burnout, it's better to pace yourself.

    Take breaks, even on busy days. "Just a few moments for yourself each day can make all the difference," Somers says. You could meditate, read, or soak in a bath.

    Go out once a week. Meet friends. Stroll through the park. Join a book club. Mark it in your calendar and keep the appointment.

    "I tried to go out almost every day," Corcoran says. When Vince's home health aide arrived, Corcoran went shopping, had lunch with friends, or saw her grandchildren.

    Be Active

    Exercise relieves stress and gives you energy. Try for 30 minutes on most days. Go for a brisk walk. Even 10-15 minutes here and there adds up.

    Corcoran exercised and danced often. She had a large collection of fitness DVDs and at-home workout routines, which made it easier to exercise every day.

    Today on WebMD

    Eating for a longer, healthier life.
    woman biking
    How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
    womans finger tied with string
    Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
    smiling after car mishap
    9 things no one tells you about getting older.
    fast healthy snack ideas
    how healthy is your mouth
    dog on couch
    doctor holding syringe
    champagne toast
    Two women wearing white leotards back to back
    Man feeding woman
    two senior women laughing