By Mary Ross, Health & Wellness Expert
The stress of being a loved one’s caregiver can be overwhelming. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of family caregivers reported a decline in their own health since care began. They also reported that this decline affected the quality of care they gave, and that they put their care recipient’s needs over their own and didn’t go to the doctor or have time to take care of their own needs. This stress can cause caregivers to become depressed, exhausted or ill. There is even a name for a caregiver whose health starts to deteriorate due to the stress of their responsibilities: caregiver syndrome. If you’re tasked with taking care of a loved one, reduce the stress and risks to your own health with these tips:
Search for national support resources or join a regional caregiver support group. Others are going through the same situation, and knowing you aren’t alone can help ease the stress. Plus, other members can teach you how they handle certain situations.
Ask other family members or close friends for assistance. If no one is available, consider respite care services, so you can take an occasional break.
Pay Attention to Your Diet
Stress can weaken the immune system, so pay close attention to what you’re eating. Avoid sugary, refined and processed foods, and limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeine. Drink plenty of water and focus your diet around whole foods, including:
- Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Healthy fats like nuts, seeds and olive oil
- Wild-caught fish, particularly salmon, and other sources of lean protein
A great app for a time-crunched caregiver trying to come up with healthy meals is the AllRecipes.com Dinner Spinner. It allows you to enter the main ingredient you’d like to use, the type of dishes you want to cook and even the length of time it will take to make it. The app then provides you with a selection of recipes that match those specifications.
Getting Enough Quality Sleep
Getting enough rest on a regular basis is an essential part of managing caregiver stress and health. Numerous studies have shown that a lack of sleep can result in a wide range of health problems including heart conditions, depression, high blood pressure and diabetes.
To get a better night’s rest, create an atmosphere that promotes good sleep patterns. A dark, quiet bedroom is a must. Use window treatments that block sunlight and turn off all electronics, including your laptop, television and smartphone (or at least put them on silent). [Find our other Sleep articles here.]
Even if you feel as if you can’t squeeze in one more activity into an already busy schedule, take some time to exercise. It will not only help reduce stress, but it can provide you with more energy to get through the day, help you sleep better and decrease your risk of developing a wide range of chronic illness and disease. A brisk daily walk with a friend is a great way to get some social support and to get a workout in, but any activity that gets your heart rate up can help.
EDITOR: Modern Health Talk is filled with articles about low- and high-tech solutions to help caregivers help their loved ones stay safe and independent at home, so be sure to explore.