Taking care of yourself is your most important step as a caregiver. Caregiving can be stressful, even in the best of situations.
But when caregivers take time to care for themselves, good things usually happen:
- They stay healthier.
- They feel better about themselves.
- They have more energy and enthusiasm and can keep giving care.
Here are some important things you need to find time to do-just for yourself:
- Take a class on caregiving. You will meet other caregivers and learn new ways to deal with challenging situations. To find classes in your area, contact the Family Caregiver Alliance (www.caregiver.org).
- Get some exercise. You may feel better and sleep better if you exercise. One way is to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week. Experts say to aim for at least 2½ hours of moderate activity a week.1
- Eat healthy meals and snacks. When you are busy giving care, it may seem easier to eat fast food than to prepare healthy meals. But healthy meals are easy to prepare, and healthy eating will give you more energy to carry you through each day.
- Get enough sleep. If you are not getting enough sleep at night, take a nap during the day. Plan to get at least one full night's rest each week.
- Make time for an activity you enjoy-reading, listening to music, painting or doing crafts, playing an instrument-even if you can only do it for a few minutes a day. If you like to go to church activities or take classes, ask a friend or family member to stay with your loved one for an hour or two one or two times a week so you can do those things.
- Get regular medical checkups. This includes dental checkups. Even if you have always been healthy, you need to stay healthy. Know about the signs of depression, and watch for them not only in the person you are caring for but also in yourself. If you have feelings of lingering sadness or hopelessness, talk with your doctor. For more information, see the topic Depression.