7 Suggestions for Caregivers' Self-Care

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A study from the Family Caregiving Alliance found that adult children caring for their parents, as well as parents caring for chronically ill children, may have their life span shortened by four to eight years. Caregivers could conceivably alter these statistics if they practice reasonable self-care.

Meditation and/or prayer

There are many kinds of meditation. Meditation can be a way to direct our thoughts in a positive manner, quiet our mind through guided imagery or incorporate other methods of quiet time. Many people include prayer during meditation, or they may pray before or after meditating.

Attending to our own medical needs

Caregivers tend to put off their own physical examinations, mammograms and other general health updates because of shortage of time, shortage of money or simply because they are tired of sitting in medical facilities because of their loved one’s many appointments.

Exercise regularly

Studies repeatedly confirm that regular exercise helps protect our hearts and our brains. Exercise helps us maintain a healthier weight and can give us a feeling of satisfaction from doing something for ourselves. Exercise can be done in short spurts and need not be excessive. A vigorous walk or bike ride counts as exercise.

Consume a healthy diet

Consuming a healthy diet can be harder than ever when we are busy caring for a vulnerable person. However, maintaining our health depends on eating the right foods. Like exercise, eating well can help us mentally as well as physically.

Maintain a social life

Even though it’s often difficult to find time to socialize away from our care receiver, we need to do so. It’s important to maintain at least a few outside relationships that mean something to us.

Learn to include ourselves on our priority lists

Most caregivers can prioritize quite well, however they frequently leave themselves off the to-do list.  Our wants and needs must be part of that list - and not at the bottom.

Acknowledge the rewards of caregiving

Most of us gain in compassion and empathy for others and higher esteem for ourselves as we acknowledge the rewards of what we do. This practice can preserve or improve our mental, physical and spiritual health.

The takeaway

Caregiving can be exhausting, frustrating and even lead to occasional cases of self-pity. All are acceptable short-term. However, if we are to live through our caregiving years and maintain our rightful hold on our own health, we need to practice self care, as well.