November is National Family Caregivers Month – a time to recognize the many selfless contributions made by devoted caregivers each day.

Although caregiving may be a rewarding experience, it may also be physically and emotionally demanding. As a result, caregivers often put their needs last. 

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers are less likely than non-caregivers to practice preventative healthcare and self-care behavior. They often report:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Poor eating habits
  • Failure to exercise
  • Postponement of or failure to make medical appointments for themselves
  • Feelings of anxiety, anger, and stress

Take care to give care

Although you cannot prevent the outcome of a serious illness or an injury on someone you love, you can take responsibility of your own well-being. In return, the loved one you care for will benefit, too. Here are some tips provided by the Family Caregiver Alliance and Caregiver Action Network to help you take control of your own health.  

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do not wait until you are overwhelmed before asking for some assistance. Reaching out for help when you need it is considered to be a sign of personal strength.
  2. Reduce stressors. If you are experiencing irritability, sleep problems, and forgetfulness, reduce the amount of personal stress in your life. Remember to identify what you can and cannot change. When you try to change something out of your control, your stress level will likely increase.
  3. Take a break. Resting is vital in order to be a good caregiver.  Take a chance to recharge.  You can ask a neighbor to care for your loved one for an afternoon or arrange respite care, providing you much deserved rest and relief.  
  4. Set personal goals. Try setting a small list of personal goals. If necessary, break down each goal into smaller action steps.
  5. Maintain a healthy diet and exercise. Eating right is essential to maintaining your strength, energy, and stamina. Getting active promotes better sleep, reduces stress, and increases alertness. If you are having trouble finding time to exercise, learn how to incorporate it into your daily routine.  Keep in mind, it helps to find activities you enjoy. It may also help you keep a positive attitude overall.

Resources:

Family Caregiver Alliance – “Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers”

Caregiver Action Network – "National Family Caregivers Month Theme”