Health Topics

Caregivers: 6 Tips to Staying Healthy While Caregiving

November is National Family Caregivers Month and National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month

Caring for Aging Family Members

Today, nearly 100 million people in the United States have chronic conditions — from Alzheimer's disease to serious physical or developmental disabilities—and many of these conditions require 24-hour care. Further, a national survey conducted by the National Alliance for Caregivers and AARP estimates that 80 percent of all care received by older Americans is provided by family members, including spouses, children, grandchildren, or other relatives.

As America’s senior population continues to grow in size, more and more people are providing unpaid care to a loved one who is ill, disabled, or elderly. Caregivers provide assistance to their loved ones with either or both of two types of activities:

    1. Instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) - such as going to the grocery store or maintaining a bank account
    2. Activities of daily living (ADL) - such as bathing, dressing, and feeding.

    For those loved ones who are being cared for, more than half live alone in their own home, an apartment, or a retirement community, while only 20 percent live in the same household as their caregiver. The remaining percentage of people live with another family member or with a friend.

    Providing care for a loved one can be a rewarding experience as you help a loved one in need maintain a comfortable quality of life. However, caregiving can also be very challenging, and in order to benefit you and your loved one, it is essential that you approach it armed with the proper knowledge and attitude.

    When caregiving for a loved one, especially a person living with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, it's important to remember to take care of yourself as well as the person you are caring for. This is especially important during this COVID-19 pandemic, which adds another layer of stress to the caregiver and family members.

    6 Tips for Staying Healthy While Caregiving

    1. Stress Management

    Stress can contribute to high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and can cause problems with memory, concentration and judgment. It can lead to worsening chronic medical conditions such as chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased immunity. To help cope with stress, be sure to get a good night's sleep, exercise, talk to a trusted counselor and don't be afraid to ask for help.

    2. Exercise

    Exercise can help decrease the stress that caregiving can have on the body. If you are struggling with finding the time to exercise, start small: exercise at home, start with 10 minutes a day, and let friends and family help and give yourself an exercise break.

    3. Eat well

    A heart-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, are good for overall health and may help protect the brain. This diet is also good for the person you caring for.

    4. Take some time away for yourself

    It's always a good idea to have a little me time! But when you are caring for someone, it's even more important. Take a walk or a 10 minute meditation in the morning.

    5. Talk to someone

    If you feel overwhelmed, talk to a friend. Just talking about how your feeling, can help relieve the built up emotions you are feeling throughout the day. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, see your doctor.

    6. Have a support team

    You can't do it all yourself, so include other family members or friends to also help with the caregiving responsibilities.