Caregivers are individuals who often put the needs of others first. They may care for a child, an adult or a parent 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The people they care for may be profoundly disabled requiring constant attention, which leaves little time for the caregiver to attend to their own needs. As a result they may be more susceptible to health problems and stress. If the caregiver doesn’t care for themselves, who will?
What Caregivers Can Do
Stress in any amount is still stress. It can cause numerous health problems for a caregiver, from headaches and heart disease to sleeplessness and a compromised immune system. The more stress you have in your life, the more likely you are to suffer from health problems. A caregiver needs to find ways to manage the stress they feel when caring for someone so that they don’t become ill as a result.
- Exercise a little every day. While you may do some lifting or walking while you are caring for a disabled person, it isn’t the same as doing an exercise that you enjoy by yourself. Walk just to breath in the fresh air at a local park. Do some Pilates in your bedroom to stretch and relax all of your muscle groups. Swim or enjoy Zumba at the local gym.
- Take a vacation or a few hours off once in a while. Getting away to recharge your batteries is necessary when you’re caring for a disabled person. Many caregivers refuse to turn the reins over to anyone else to care for a loved one. Even the best intentioned individual may start to feel overwhelmed by taking care of someone, especially if the disabled person needs around the clock care. Getting away for a while, even if it is just for a few hours each day, can help to alleviate stress.
- Have a backup helper. In order to get away a little each day or for a short vacation, a primary caregiver will need to have a backup helper. This could be a trusted friend, family member or a professional nursing assistant. Hiring someone or asking others for help may at first seem like admitting defeat, but what it really means is that you want someone who is alert and well rested looking after your loved one.
- Eat healthy. While many people know that a healthy, balanced diet is the best thing you can do to care for yourself, many caregivers skip meals because they’re busy taking care of a loved one. This can lead to weight problems, headaches and leave the caregiver feeling run down during the day. Make a little time for yourself for a snack or meals, perhaps when the person you are caring for is eating their meal or while they are resting.
- Know when to ask for help. Sometimes even the best caregiver needs a little help, either spiritually, physically or mentally. Share the burden with someone else, whether it is a friend, family member, spiritual leader or a therapist. There are also many organizations for the disabled that have services available for caregivers too.
Caring for a Caregiver
It can be hard watching a friend or family member dedicate all of their time in the service of others, especially if you know that they are not caring for themselves the way they should. Even if a caregiver does the work because they chose it as a career, they still need a little help from time to time. The following are a few ideas that you can use to assist the caregiver in your life:
- Offer to help. Caregivers may be afraid to ask for help because they don’t want to put you out or they’re afraid you’ll think they can‘t handle the job anymore. However, they may be secretly wishing someone would offer to assist them, even for an hour or two. If you have the time, offer your services.
- Be a good listener. Everyone needs someone to talk to and caregivers are often isolated because of the work that they do. Sometimes all they need is a friend who will listen to their concerns and let them vent.
- Get them out of the house. Caregivers often work long hours, and they may be confined to their own homes doing so. They may be resigned to never getting out for a little rest and relaxation. If the situation permits, offer to take them out shopping, to the movies or any other activity that allows them to forget their troubles for a while. It will help them relax, forget their worries and remind them that someone cares about their needs too.