Dear Donna,

I’m the primary caregiver for my aging father, and I also work full-time. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping at night because I keep thinking of what I have to do the next day. Often I don’t even have time to eat.

If something happens to me, I’m not sure how he’d manage. I’d like to stay healthy, but I can’t seem to find the time. How can I take care of myself as well as my dad?

Sincerely,

Gina in Holland, MI

Caregivers Should Also Care for Themselves

Dear Gina,

Caregiving is an important but exhausting role, as you know. It is easy to get overwhelmed or feel guilty for taking time out for yourself. Unfortunately, caregivers who constantly put others’ needs first are likely to experience stress, burnout, and other health issues. Without proper self-care, you probably can’t give your dad the care that he needs.

How to Take Care of Yourself (and a Loved One)

  1. Be mindful of your own physical health

Although you may put your loved one’s health needs before your own, caring for yourself is even more important.

  • Make sure you are getting regular checkups.
  • Ask your healthcare provider for advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Make sure you are getting 7–8 hours of sleep each night. Follow good sleep hygiene.
  • Set aside time to prep healthy meals or snacks you can grab on the go.
  • Schedule time for yourself, including exercise, as you would any other appointment.
  1. Don’t try to do it alone

Whether you need help with caregiving duties or just moral support, it’s okay to ask.

Look for local support groups specifically for caregivers. Online forums or social media groups can help, too. Stay in touch with supportive friends and family.

For help with your dad, reach out to local community programs, such as home health aides or meal delivery services. Many senior communities offer respite care that lets caregivers take some time off.

If you have family members or friends willing and able to help, ask them in specific ways, such as driving your dad to an appointment or spending time with him on a Sunday afternoon.

  1. Practice mindful relaxation.

Even short periods of relaxation, as little as five minutes, can help reduce stress levels and increase your energy.

  • Consider taking a yoga class to help you stretch and relax your body.
  • Download a free app to help you practice deep breathing and mindfulness exercises.
  • You may want to set aside time to journal, which can help you process the thoughts and emotions that might otherwise keep you awake at night.

It is also important to not feel ashamed when you are tired or frustrated. There is nothing wrong with asking for help or for taking some time for yourself.

I hope this advice helps you stay healthy and minimize stress.

Best wishes,

Donna

Peace of Mind for Caregivers and Loved Ones

Heritage Senior Communities provides quality care throughout Michigan. Appledorn Assisted Living community in Holland, for example, provides numerous opportunities to improve seniors’ quality of life and reduce caregiver stress. Contact us today to schedule a tour.