As we head toward the start of a new year, weary caregivers may be struggling to find ways to lead healthier lives. The demands of caring for a senior loved one can take a toll on both the physical and emotional health of the caregiver.
What can you as a caregiver do to start off the new year on a healthier note?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Seek out help. Some caregivers view caring for an aging parent or senior loved one as their duty and obligation. Asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness or a lack of dedication. Try to remember that a few hours of support a week can keep you healthier over the long haul. Ask yourself: If something happens to you, who will care for your loved one?
- Make nutrition a priority. More and more research proves that nutrition plays a key role in living a healthy lifestyle. When you are under a considerable amount of stress, such as that created by caregiving, it is even more important. Make it a goal to eat five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Besides helping you improve your physical health, the vitamins and minerals found in many fruits and vegetables can also help lift your spirits and boost your mood.
- Get moving. Moderate exercise for a combined total of 30 minutes a day can help to improve your physical well-being. Taking a 15-minute walk around the block in the morning and spending another 15 minutes on a stationary bike later in the day can add up to a healthier caregiver.
- Stay personally connected. While social media and video chat services are a good way for caregivers to stay in touch, personally connecting with friends and family is also important. Make time to go out with loved ones at least once or twice a month. Talk with your local agency on aging about respite care options if your loved one isn’t safe staying alone while you are out.
- Schedule your physical. Caregivers often put their own health on the backburner while caring for a senior loved one. Make it a priority to have a physical and schedule whatever screenings your primary care physician feels are necessary. Prevention and early intervention are an important part of maintaining your ability to care for your aging parent or family member.
- Find a support group. For many caregivers, just the idea of having to fit a weekly or monthly support group meeting into their calendar may seem impossible. That is where an online caregiver forum can help. You can connect with your peers in groups like those offered by the Family Caregiver Alliance.