Caregiving for a senior loved one can come with many rewards. It may give family members who’ve drifted apart the opportunity to reconnect and reminisce. There’s also the warm feeling that comes from lending support to someone who cared for and nurtured you. But there are also difficult realities caregivers encounter.
Depression associated with witnessing the decline of a loved one’s health can be serious. So can isolation family caregivers often experience, especially those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
The following tips might help you find holistic ways to beat the caregiver blues.
Steps Caregivers Can Take to Protect Mental Health
- Eat a healthy diet: It’s tempting to load up on comfort foods and sugary treats when you are feeling down and lonely. While that often provides a short pop of energy, it makes the situation worse over time. Researchers have found a strong link between diet and depression. People who eat healthy foods are less likely to suffer from depression than those who consume a diet high in processed foods and sugar. By contrast, a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean protein helps people enjoy a better overall wellness.
- Get regular exercise: Don’t mistake the hustle and bustle of hectic caregiver days for exercise. Unfortunately, the tasks associated with the business of caring for a loved one don’t usually equate to physical fitness activities. By engaging in 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, you’ll likely see your mental health improve. Researchers say that’s because working out releases endorphins that improve mood as well as the quality and duration of sleep.
- Make sleep a priority: Sleep problems are all too common among family caregivers. Some family caregivers have trouble falling asleep while others can’t stay Stress, worry, and fatigue are often the underlying causes. Regardless of why, sleep deprivation can worsen depression. If you just can’t get a good night’s rest no matter what you try, talk with your primary care physician. They may need to order a sleep study or check for other health conditions that may be the culprit.
- Visit with loved ones remotely: Socializing is essential to feeling connected and supported. Yet, caregivers often feel guilty making fun a priority when there are so many tasks they think they should be doing. Spending even a few hours a week with friends and family can restore the spirit and make you feel less alone. If you can’t visit in person, use a video chat platform to connect virtually. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most people have become familiar with video chat programs like Skype and Zoom.
- Take time off: To be a good caregiver, it’s essential that spouses and adult children take time for themselves on a regular basis. Book a massage, have lunch with a friend, work on an art project, or watch a comedy to unwind. If you don’t have someone close to you who can help, explore respite care at a local assisted living community or adult day programs. Both of these short-term solutions will keep your senior loved one safe while you take time to yourself.
Plan for the Future by Visiting a Heritage Community
One final suggestion for caregivers is to create a care plan for the future. While no one likes to think the worst will happen, there might come a time when a senior loved one will need more or different care than families can provide. That’s why it’s a good idea to explore local senior care options.
For four generations, family-owned Heritage Senior Communities has long been recognized as an industry leader. Call the community nearest you to set up a personal visit to learn more today!