Protecting and advocating for the health and wellbeing of adult caregivers
As a caregiver, whether it is to a parent, spouse, child, or friend, your main responsibility is to care for someone else, but don’t let your own needs fall by the wayside in the process. In order to adequately and safely care for another, you’ve got to be your best self. Here are a few ways to ensure you get the care you need:
1. Schedule it – Your day is filled with scheduling medical exams, refilling prescriptions, or making sure your loved one took two pills, not three. You’d think this would be enough to remind you of your own physical health, but you are too preoccupied with theirs. Although it might be difficult, and you may even be a little reluctant, make your health routine a priority and schedule regular check-ups.
Ask a friend or family member to look after your loved one while you take an hour or two to make sure you are healthy and strong – your body and well-being will thank you. Speaking of asking for help, don’t be afraid to speak up. If someone is willing to lend a helping hand, take advantage, even if it is just for an hour once a week to go to a yoga class or have lunch with a friend.
2. Get moving – Exercise is important, but lifting someone out of bed or successfully completing your mile-long checklist doesn’t count. It is recommended that everyone complete 30 to 40 minutes of moderately intense exercise at least three times a week.
If taking that kind of time away isn’t an option, fit it in when you can. Park farther away at the grocery store or take the stairs. Cut down on travel time to the gym and complete a short workout video at home while your loved one is occupied. Even a short walk around the neighborhood is enough to get your heart pumping.
3. Find a shortcut – Shortcuts aren’t always a bad thing, especially if it saves you wasted time. Take a day to analyze where you spend the most time, then look for ways to streamline tasks such as paying bills online, pre-preparing lunch and dinner for the week with healthy freezer meals, or running errands when the traffic and crowds are minimal.
Make time for a little me time by pairing a caregiving task with something you enjoy. For example, fold laundry or clean the house while you chat with a friend or watch a show that’s been sitting untouched on your DVR. Schedule appointments or call in prescriptions while you walk on the treadmill. With a little thought, you’ll be able to find ways to make your life easier, saving precious time and energy.
Caregiving is a full-time job, but your health is a full-time job too, and without it your caregiving role comes to a screeching halt. You live a busy life, but don’t let that get in the way of taking care of yourself.
Caregiving requires a lot energy, and rightfully so since you are taking care of another person. It makes sense that you’d need the restorative powers of sleep to not only help you stay focused and productive, but help you fight back against chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and depression. Unfortunately, the care you provide is constant, sometimes requiring several wake ups during the night, and often times you are late to bed and early to rise. If you aren’t getting enough sleep each night, use these tips to help you fall asleep quickly, and make the most of what z’s you are able to catch.
1. Set the stage – While it might sound a little silly, sometimes you have to create an environment that is sleep-inducing. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Use room darkening shades if the morning light tends to rouse you before your alarm. Rather than lying awake tossing and turning, try drinking a warm cup of chamomile or green tea or using your favorite scented lotion. There are also a variety of apps on the market that can help you get the good night’s sleep you need.
2. Practice good habits – As a child we all had a bedtime routine, whether it was reading a story or picking out the perfect pair of pajamas. Adults need a routine too, and it could help you relax and fall asleep quickly. Yoga, meditation, reading, or guided imagery are all great ways to get in the right frame of mind for sleep. Try to make it a habit to retire to your bedroom at the same time each night to create a consistent sleep and wake schedule.
3. Put away the electronics – After a long day, it feels nice to sit back and check up on everything that has happened in the news or on social media. There is nothing wrong with this, but just make sure you put the electronics to bed at least two to three hours before you go to bed yourself. The blue light in electronic screens reduces melatonin, the sleep-inducing chemical your body naturally creates, making it difficult for you to drift off to sleep.
Caregiving takes a toll on your energy levels, and sleep is your body’s natural way of replenishing it. Strive to get at least eight hours of sleep each night, and use these tips to wake up rested to tackle the new day.