Self-Care for Caregivers
Caring for an aging parent can be both a privilege and a source of pressure. It’s important to allow yourself time to de-stress and rejuvenate, so you’ll have enough stamina and emotional energy to be the caregiver you want to be.
These simple ideas are not intended as yet another to do list—you have enough of those already! Look to this list for inspiration and a reminder that you also deserve good care.
- Watch a funny movie. Make some popcorn and let laughter help you decompress.
- Get moving. Hit the local hiking trail or bike path. Take your camera. Notice the beauty all around you.
- Have a good cry. The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming sometimes. Allowing yourself to let the tears flow really can help you feel better physically and emotionally.
- Feed yourself well. It’s easy to binge on carbohydrates, fat and sugar when you feel stressed. Comfort food is okay occasionally, but eating healthier meals will help you feel better in the long run.
- Don’t hold your breath. Take in long slow breaths and release slowly. Allow your shoulders to relax too. (They can be up around your ears when you don’t even realize it!)
- Let music soothe you. Isn’t it amazing how hearing a favorite song can lift your whole outlook? Give talk radio a break and escape into music on your way to work.
- Be thankful. Keep a daily log of at least one thing you’re grateful for each day. Share a few entries with the person you’re caring for.
- Seek help. Asking for help means you are wise, not weak. If you need the guidance of a professional, make that call.
- Sleep. Stress can inhibit sleep, but you probably know that already. To help you relax at bedtime, wind down without any screens for at least 30 minutes prior to lights out. Monitor your caffeine consumption throughout the day. Let your bedroom be a dark, cool and screen-free sleep sanctuary.
- Give yourself some grace. You’re going to have some bad days. Make apologies, if needed, and move ahead knowing you’re going to do better tomorrow.
Written by Mallorie Kettlehut, a board certified adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner who specializes in senior health and palliative care. She sees patients at the Henry Ford Allegiance Senior Health Center in Jackson.
Have you ever been in the role of caregiver to a loved one? What was the most important thing you did for yourself during that time? Let us know below!