“I promised my family that I would take care of mom.”
“If I don’t do it, no one will.”
“I might not have much time left, I feel guilty if I leave.”
“If I ask for help, they’ll just tell me I am doing it wrong.”
If you’re taking care of a loved one who is hospitalized or dealing with a chronic health condition, these thoughts may sound familiar. Stepping into a caregiver role when a family member needs you can be a gift of time and love when it is needed the most. The rewards of offering yourself in service to others are real, and caring for a family member in need feels like the right thing to do.
But, even the most compassionate among us are not immune to the emotional strain, physical stress, and other demands of long-term care. In fact, family caregivers are at an increased risk for depression and excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Exhaustion, worry, scarcity of resources, and demands on time can contribute to health risks like high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, and a tendency towards obesity. Yes, even the caregiver needs care!
You’ll know that your body needs a break when you notice the physical signs of stress, such as absent-mindedness or irritability, sweating, headaches, a racing heart, or dry mouth. These are signals that your body sends to say, “I need some TLC!”
Use one of these strategies to take care of yourself.
Take Ten. Even just ten minutes of walking, stretching, a guided meditation, or solitude can revitalize your body, mind, and spirit. Smartphone apps like Calm or Headspace can help you develop a habit of meditation.
Connect. Being a caregiver can be a lonely job, but many others find themselves in the same situation as you. Joining an online support group can connect you with others who understand what you are going through can offer camaraderie and friendship with the stroke of a keyboard.
Energize. Meals filled with fruit and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, and eating every few hours will keep you energized and fueled for whatever comes your way. Keep healthy snacks like trail mix, sliced fruit, or protein bars on hand for times when you need to eat on the go, and ask your Wellview Health Advisor for guidance with choosing healthy items when you rely on restaurant meals. Remember, you have a team, too!
Indulge! As Virginia Morris puts it in her book, How to Care for Aging Parents, it's important for you to take part in "indulgent necessities." Everyone needs some pampering occasionally, for both physical and mental health. So don't feel guilty if you treat yourself once in a while...you deserve it and you need it.
The work you do as a caregiver is important, valuable, and good. So are you. Your Wellview team is here to support you every step of the way. Reach out and schedule a consult for your own TLC today!
Heather Fuselier, CHWC, CFP, TTS
Health Advisor | Email Heather