Family members are the primary source of support for older adults and people with disabilities in the United States. According to Family Caregiver Alliance[i], more than 34 million caregivers have administered unpaid care, including housekeeping, cooking, assisting with personal hygiene, and providing companionship, to an adult age 50 or older in the last year.
With many spending an average of 24.4 hours per week performing caregiving tasks while also juggling a job, it can be challenging for family caregivers to find time for themselves. Because caregiving often takes a significant emotional, physical, and financial toll, it is essential for caregivers to incorporate activities they enjoy into their daily routines. In recognition of National Family Caregivers Month[ii] (NFCM) observed every November, the Thick-It® brand is reminding family caregivers that it is OK to take time for themselves with six tips that can help them pursue the passions and interests that enrich their lives.
- Prioritize personal health. Despite facing an increased risk[iii] for depression, chronic illness, and a decline in quality of life, family caregivers of all ages are less likely than non-caregivers to practice preventive healthcare and self-care behavior. See the doctor regularly[iv] to reduce the risk of illness, detect health conditions or diseases early, and increase life span. It’s also important to eat well[v] by consuming enough whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit, and to get seven to nine hours of sleep per day.
- Keep up with hobbies. Engaging in enjoyable activities[vi] for as little as 15 minutes in the middle of a day filled with obligations can help caregivers recharge and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed. Read a book, knit, garden, listen to music, journal, or work on a jigsaw puzzle or paint-by-numbers kit.
- Exercise. Exercising for just 20 minutes[vii] each day can help caregivers maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, and increase energy levels. Simply taking the stairs, walking up escalators, parking the car a little further away from the grocery store, or biking to work instead of driving can improve health. For busy caregivers, a fitness tracker—whether it’s a fitness band or a smartwatch—can remind you to exercise, monitor your activity level during and after each workout, and track your progress over time. For more ideas about how to make time for personal fitness, check out this AARP article.
- Spend time with friends. Some caregivers may feel like they are too busy to stay in touch with friends; however, being socially connected is good for the mind and body[viii]. Try to walk around the block with a neighbor once a week, schedule a standing lunch date with friends, or attend a community event every couple of months.
- Relax. Deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation are easy, quick ways to reduce stress. For caregivers who are short on time, apps such as Headspace and Calm offer meditations that last as little as five minutes with optional push reminders that help users stay on track with their daily practice. The Thick-It® brand’s free, downloadable infographic also provides simple techniques to help caregivers and their loved ones relieve stress, calm anxiety, and prepare for the tasks ahead.
- Ask for help. Caregivers don’t need to do it all themselves. Ask family members, friends, and neighbors to share caregiving tasks. There are also professional and volunteer services that can help provide meals, transportation, and support, as well as respite services that offer caregivers well-deserved breaks. Additionally, the 211 Helpline connects caregivers with supportive crisis counseling, community services, and follow-up. Family caregivers can find more resources by visiting Caregiver Action Network’s Family Caregiver Toolbox, Family Caregiver Alliance, and the Thick-It® brand website.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers before undertaking a new health care regimen or exercise program and with any questions you may have about a medical condition, treatment, or the use of Thick-It® products. The information contained herein is for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment in any manner.