By Rachel Juran, MA
It is estimated that more than 65 million people in the U.S. are currently spending an average of 20 hours per week providing care to a family member or friend (National Alliance for Caregiving, November 2009).
It is important for caregivers to take care of themselves too.*
1. Put your physical needs first. Prioritize eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep, finding time to exercise and scheduling regular medical checkups.
2. Deal with your feelings. Seek support. Consider joining a caregiver support group or seeing a professional counselor.
3. Use your resources. Recognize your limits and accept help when offered. Suggest specific things others can do to help.
4. Educate yourself. Be knowledgeable about your loved one’s condition to improve communication with doctors and ensure better care.
5. Take a break and relax. Giving yourself a chance to recuperate can have beneficial effects for you and your loved one.
6. Learn about company policies. Some companies have programs and policies related to flexible work arrangements to help employees who are caregivers outside the office.
7. Stay positive. Focus on your accomplishments and the rewards of providing care to maintain a positive attitude and reduce your focus on what you cannot do.
8. Get organized. Simple tools like calendars and to-do lists can help you stay organized; prioritize to help you tackle the most important tasks first.
9. Just say no. Accept the fact that you simply can’t do everything! If someone requests something that will stretch you too thin, explain honestly why you can’t — and don’t feel guilty.
*Information adapted from the AARP and National Family Caregivers Association.