The 5 Best Self-Care Tips for Alzheimer's Caregivers

Health Writer

If you provide care to a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you probably don’t have a lot of time for yourself. An indulgent spa getaway or a day spent in the garden just isn’t possible most days. But making yourself a priority at least once a day makes you a better caregiver. Here are some simple self-care tips that take very little time, but they offer great refreshment.

1. Get a few succulents

You don’t have enough time to devote to a garden or even a traditional houseplant when you provide care to an Alzheimer’s patient. That’s why you should get a few succulents for inside your home. You’ll reap the benefits of having living plants in your space, but you won’t have to worry if you don’t water them daily.

These low-maintenance plants need about six hours of sunlight each day and some occasional water to thrive. You’ll enjoy seeing them grow and having the chance to tend to them when you have time.

According to the AARP, research shows that gardening has mind-boosting benefits. While you won’t be outside working in the sunlight and fresh air, you will spend some time tending your succulents and focusing on their care. In fact, caring for  plants can improve your mood and reduce your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

2. Create a Zen garden

Zen gardens provide peace and calm, and they are known to reduce stress. A small personal Zen garden will help you find inner peace at home while you provide care to your loved one. To create your tabletop Zen garden, you’ll need sand, polished stones, a wooden tray or other empty bowl or plate, and a wooden rake or fork.

Simply fill your container with sand, shake it to settle it, and use your rake or fork to smooth it. Then, arrange your rocks randomly or in a specific pattern with their best sides showing. Draw your ripples anyway you like, and remember there is not a right or wrong way to do it. When you feel stressed or anxious, rake swirls or ripples in the sand or rearrange the rocks.

3. Spend time with a dog

According to the pet website Rover, dogs positively impact your mental health by reducing symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety. When you pet a dog, your body releases oxytocin, the feel-good chemical in your body. The more oxytocin you release, the more your anxiety and depression systems ease and the better you feel. Dogs require a lot of time — time you don’t necessarily have. A visit to your local animal shelter or pet store will do the trick. Perhaps you could have a friend or family member bring over their furry companion to give you some much needed snuggles and a break.

Petting a dog also decreases your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Thus, when you spend time with a dog, you lower your stress levels and boost your mental health and mood.

4. Listen to your favorite music

Tuning into your favorite radio station or playing songs from an artist you love can set a positive atmosphere during a full day of care-giving. If it’s music your loved one appreciates, it can also be an enjoyable shared experience.

When you focus your energy on your favorite song, you will relax, breathe, and recharge before continuing with your day. The other benefits of listening to music include relieving anxiety, elevating your mood, and increasing your positive emotions.

5. Read a book that doesn’t make you think

While we are all for good literature, we encourage you to read a book that does not make you think when you need to prioritize self-care. Pick up a comic book, a children’s book, or a fun read that requires little to no thinking so that you can escape into a different world for a short amount of time and slip a bit of mindless entertainment into your day. You’ll still reap the traditional benefits of reading, like reducing stress and stimulating your mind, but you won’t have to expend too much precious mental energy while reading these types of materials.

You will be a better caregiver when you prioritize self-care. For more ideas about how to take better care of yourself while caring for others, visit this HealthCentral slideshow.