Research shows that caregivers are at risk for a wide variety of health problems because of the excess stress that being a caregiver places on them. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, between 40 and 70 percent of family caregivers have symptoms of depression. Caregivers are also at higher risk for substance abuse and one out of ten reports that their health got worse after becoming a caregiver. Because of the impact of caregiving on mental and physical health, it’s important for caregivers to take proactive steps to take care of themselves.
Below are 4 things that caregivers can do to take better care of their own health.
#1: Don’t Skip Medical Appointments
It can be easy to put off seeing your doctor, having your eyes checked, or going to the dentist when your schedule is jam-packed with caregiver tasks, work, and other responsibilities. However, keeping up with your own medical care is important to staying healthy and catching problems before they become serious. So, when you receive a reminder that you’re due for your annual physical, make the appointment. Oh, and keep it, too!
#2: Join a Caregiver Support Group
Spending some time around other caregivers is good for your mental health. It gives you a place to talk about how you’re feeling where other people will understand because they’ve been through it, too. It can also help you to feel less isolated knowing that others are in the same situation. In addition, a support group is often a good place to make new friends, ones that understand when you have to cancel a coffee date at the last minute because of an emergency. And, who couldn’t use more friends?
#3: Take Time Off
Everyone needs a break now and then. Spending all your spare time on caregiver tasks means that you never get downtime to do the things you enjoy and destress. If you don’t have family members who can take some regular shifts with your older family member, consider contacting a home care agency and hiring a professional caregiver. Even having a home care provider come one day per week for a few hours can give you the time off you need to refresh.
#4: Learn Stress Relief Techniques
There’s a lot of stress involved in being a caregiver. Not only are you juggling a huge to-do list, but you’re probably also worried about the senior’s health and the complicated emotions that are often involved in being a caregiver. Learning some stress relief techniques that you can do any time you have a few minutes can help. Try using deep breathing exercises or learning some simple yoga moves.