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As the caregiver to an aging family member, you probably neglect your own self-care more often than you realize. However, given the importance of actions such as eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and eliminating stress, you can’t afford to put yourself on the back burner. As the new year approaches, it’s time to make a commitment to yourself.
Caregiver stress, or caregiver burnout, is a common problem affecting people (usually women) who provide unpaid medical and custodial care. In addition to being a physical strain, the act of taking care of another person is emotionally exhausting. Thus, caregivers often feel the effects of stress. These, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, include depression, weakened immunity, elevated risk of disease, and obesity.
Issues That Weigh on the Mind
If you are one of the 34 percent of American caregivers age 65 years or older, your own future needs probably weigh heavily on your mind. And you more than likely have your own health problems to consider, based on your current wellness level or genetics. Spend an afternoon looking at your Medicare health plan and, if it’s during open enrollment, add supplemental coverage. This may cost more per month, but it can help offset the cost of things Medicare doesn’t cover, such as dental, hearing, and vision screenings. Each state has different Medicare Advantage plans; MedicareAdvantage.com can help you find a plan no matter where you live.
Sleep It Off
You might be surprised to learn that your sleep requirements don’t change drastically once you hit puberty. But failure to get enough at any age can be detrimental to your health. Even a single night without your proper seven to eight hours can result in impaired memory and reduced physical strength. Over time, complications can arise. Hallucinations, severe mood swings, increased risk of sleep apnea, and an increased risk of mental illness, stroke, heart attack, and asthma top the list. Make a point to go to bed at least eight hours before you have to be up for the morning. Keep your cell phone away from the bed and avoid the temptation to down one last cup of coffee after dinner. You can find more tips on getting better sleep at Health24.com.
Know Your Nutritional Needs
It’s easy to get caught up in the habit of grabbing a quick snack while the person you are caring for naps. But short of fruit and vegetables, these quick bites often do more harm than good. Prepackaged energy bars, protein shakes, and bags of chips may fill you up momentarily, but they are not the fuel your body needs. If you’re getting enough sleep but are regularly tired or in a mental cloud, it may be time to adjust your diet. Make sure to eat a variety of foods, giving preference to anything in its whole and natural form, such as apples or baby carrots.
Self-Care Habits That Heal
Sleeping, eating, and taking care of stress can only go so far. Your daily self-care ritual should also include the following:
- At least 20 minutes of exercise
- Visits to your doctor when necessary
- Simple indulgences, such as a cup of hot tea and a good book
By prioritizing your needs, you can be a better caregiver, spouse, and parent. Dr. Christiane Northrup explains self-care in the best way possible by writing, “Caring for yourself is the most important — and often the most forgotten — thing you can do as a caregiver.”
As much as you want to be there for your loved ones, you have to be there for yourself, too. Make 2019 your best year by putting your best interests first.
We hope you found this article on 2019: The Year of Caregiver Self-Care useful. If you would like to learn more about the home care services that All Heart Home Care provides, contact us today at 619-736-4677.
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