Q: I find myself spending so much time caring for my dad with memory loss that I’m no longer able to spend time caring for me or doing what makes me happy. Is there some way I can manage to do both?
A: Caring for a loved one with memory loss can be an intense journey, but it can become even harder when you aren’t meeting your own needs. As you’re likely noticing, caregiving takes a toll on your mental and physical health, leading to enhanced stress and possible feelings of depression. If not managed properly, this could also lead to caregiver burnout.
Finding ways to practice self-care as a caregiver is important. In fact, by doing so, you could benefit you and your loved one – and that’s great inspiration to start!
10 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers
Make healthier food choices.
Food fuels your mind and body, giving you the necessary energy to care for your loved one and yourself.
- Eat a balanced breakfast
- Consume healthy snacks
- Manage your portions
- Prepare food ahead of time to prevent stopping for fast food after a long day
- Make healthy substitutions for your cravings
Get the recommended amount of sleep.
A good night’s sleep can make a big difference to a caregiver. Because of this, aim for seven hours a night. Those who focus on getting adequate sleep tend to get sick less often and have a lower risk for serious health problems like heart disease or diabetes. Sleep can also reduce stress, improve your overall mood, and allow for better concentration. Ultimately, better sleep allows you to be a better caregiver in the long run.
Exercise as regularly as possible.
Experts suggest that caregivers should aim for about 150 minutes of exercise weekly. If needed, you can start small, with 10 minutes of physical activity 5 times a week. Then, try to build up to the recommended 30 minutes each day. If that doesn’t seem feasible with your schedule, just remember that any amount of exercise is better than none!
Consider involving your loved one in this activity, as the benefits of exercise would be beneficial for both of you. Try chair yoga, tai chi, walking or dancing.
Make sure your medical care is up to date.
Maintaining your physical and emotional health is important.
- Make medical appointments with your healthcare provider
- Get a physical
- Talk about your concerns
- Manage your health conditions
- Keep your prescriptions active, and take medications as required
- Stay connected with your doctor to keep yourself in the best shape possible
Take time for hobbies.
Although many caregivers tend to feel guilty, taking time for you is a great thing to do. Spend time on things that make you happy. Some ideas may include reading or crafting, volunteering, watching your favorite show, cooking or baking, playing a musical instrument, etc.
It’s normal for caregivers to feel overwhelmed, but there are plenty of methods that can help you feel less stressed or anxious.
- Practice gratitude or start a gratitude journal
- Step away for a moment to regroup
- Visualize calmness or your favorite place (meditate)
- Practice deep breathing
Develop a support system.
Finding an avenue of support for you is just as important as the support you provide for your loved one.
- Talk about your emotions with friends and family members
- Reach out to a mental health provider for emotional support
- Feed your spirit by going to church, meditating or praying
- Join a support group to connect with those who understand what you’re going through
- Reach out to local memory care communities for advice and knowledge
Isolation can cause an increase in depression. To prevent this, nurture relationships with family members, connect with friends and acquaintances, and reestablish connections to clubs or organizations
Ask for help.
Caregiving can be easier when it’s a group effort. Making your needs known will allow others to step in and support you. You may be surprised by who is willing to pitch in.
- Be honest about where and when you may need help
- Accept help when it is offered
- Make a list of tasks others can help you with, making sure you are specific
Give yourself credit.
You’re doing one of the most difficult jobs there is, so be patient with yourself as you learn and find comfort in knowing you’re trying your best.
We’re Here for You
At Bridges® by EPOCH, we’re here to help you on this journey. With caregiver support groups, educational events and resources, we can make it easier to care for yourself and your loved one, too. To learn more about how we can help support you, contact the community nearest you today.
Alicia Seaver is Vice President of Memory Care Operations for EPOCH Senior Living and a Certified Memory Impairment Specialist. Every month, she addresses a specific issue related to memory and memory care. If you’re interested in hearing about a particular topic, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enhancing Quality of Life
Bridges® by EPOCH memory care communities have been developed from the ground up to anticipate, meet and exceed the needs of our residents and their families. Our team of remarkable people, the exceptional care and services we offer, and the purposeful design of our buildings all combine to create the most rewarding, secure and nurturing lifestyle possible for our residents.
Bridges® by EPOCH communities are located in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, in the following towns: Norwalk, CT; Stamford, CT; Trumbull, CT; Andover, MA; Hingham, MA; Lexington, MA; Mashpee, MA; Pembroke, MA; Sudbury, MA; Westford, MA; Westwood, MA; and Nashua, NH.