Caregiving is a demanding, full-time job for many. A recent study[i] reported family caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week administering care, and nearly one in four dedicate 41 hours or more caring for a loved one each week.
The month of November is a time to recognize, support, and empower the 34.2 million Americans who lovingly prepare meals, help with housekeeping, assist with personal hygiene, and provide companionship to aging family members. In honor of National Family Caregivers Month[ii], here are five self-care tips for family caregivers.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Promoting your own health ensures you are able to provide the best care for your loved one. Even though it may be difficult to find the time, exercising for just 20 minutes[iii] each day can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, and increase energy levels. Maintaining proper nutrition and hydration is as important for you as it is for your loved ones. This AARP article[iv] provides healthy eating tips and recipes for busy caregivers.
- Seek support from other caregivers. Everyone needs a break. Ask another family member, a trusted friend, or a neighbor to share some of your responsibilities, such as driving your loved one to medical appointments or taking them for a morning walk. You may also consider respite care, which allows a professional caregiver to assist your loved one for an afternoon or for several days or weeks.[v] This can allow you to take some much-needed time for yourself.
- Take care of your mental health. While caregiving can be rewarding, it can also leave you vulnerable to depression if you neglect your own needs.[vi] In fact, 40 to 70 percent of caregivers have symptoms of depression, according to Family Caregiver Alliance. Watch out for symptoms such as irritability, trouble concentrating, weight loss or gain, and changes in your sleep pattern. If any symptoms are severe or last for longer than two weeks, it may be time to consult your doctor.
- Attend social activities. Keeping up with your hobbies and maintaining relationships with friends can help you avoid isolation and prevent caregiver burnout.[vii] Activities should get you away from your daily routine and occur outside of a caregiving setting.
- Take advantage of helpful resources. Find tips, videos, and information on nutrition, technology, support groups, and more with Caregiver Action Network’s Family Caregiver Toolbox. The Family Caregiver Alliance offers resources for family caregivers of adults with chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, Parkinson’s, and other illnesses. Committed to improving the lives of both patients and caregivers, additional resources can also be found on the Thick-It® brand website.
Are you caring for an aging loved one? Help other caregivers by leaving your self-care tips and strategies in the comments.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have about the use of Thick-It® products. The information contained herein is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment in any manner.