Monday, February 17, 2014
Caregivers should take heart and take a break
February is the month when we celebrate love and caring; Valentine’s Day and healthy hearts. But it isn’t all about heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and cards with cute pictures of Cupid. It is also a good time to remember caregivers. Many people are being cared for by family members or close friends. Indeed, the Mayo Clinic reports more than 65 million Americans provide care to a loved one.
Caregiving can be very rewarding, but also very stressful. Being a caregiver can be physically as well as emotionally draining. Sometimes caregivers are so focused on caring for their loved one, they fail to notice problems in with own health.
Here are some tips to relieve caregiver stress:
• Take laughter breaks. Watch a funny video, watch comedies on TV, read the funny pages. Even the most seriously ill people need light moments. Nobody wants to be solemn and serious 24 hours a day. It’s not disrespectful, it’s refreshing to laugh at least a little every day.
• Take daily exercise breaks. Going for a 20-minute walk with a friend can do wonders.
• Accept help from others. Make a list of things that would relieve some of the burden, then let those offering help choose what they want to do from your list. Let them feel good about helping and supporting you.
• Speak up. Don’t expect people to automatically know what you’re feeling. Involve as many people as you can to share the responsibility.
• Don’t strive for perfection — accept that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Make a list of the things that are “absolutely necessary” and let other, non-essential things go.
• Don’t neglect your own health. Do whatever is necessary to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthy meals. Make sure you keep your own medical appointments.
• Take some respite time for yourself. Arrange for someone else to take over caregiving duties for a bit while you get a manicure, pedicure, go out to a movie theater, whatever makes you happy. Professional home health care workers get time off — why shouldn’t you?
• Consider joining a caregiver support group. Most local hospitals have them. Backus Hospital has just started a caregiver support group — call 860-889-8331, ext. 4239 for more information.
Caring for yourself is just as important as for caring for your loved one. Get the support you need, you deserve it!
Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at firstname.lastname@example.org.