If you develop health problems—mental or physical—what happens to your loved one? Their well-being depends on yours. So it’s vital that you keep yourself healthy and in balance, for your sake as well as theirs. Not taking the time to do this is the biggest regret of former caregivers. There is always a way.
No one can be “on” all the time.
- Ask family to relieve you. A little time after work or on the weekend. Or some of their vacation time dedicated to taking care of your relative so you can do something nourishing for yourself.
- Consider an adult day program with activities and social opportunities for your loved one.
- Investigate respite programs for short-term relief.
- Maintain a hobby or social connection that is completely unrelated to caregiving.
- Take a mental break at least 10 minutes a day. Perhaps you talk with a friend who has a good sense of humor, or watch silly videos. Maybe you meditate or pray.
Take care of yourself
- Keep up with regular doctor visits and preventive exams. Take your own health seriously. Do not postpone surgeries or other treatments you need.
- Cultivate healthy habits (seven to eight hours of sleep per day, regular exercise, and a healthy diet). Avoid unhealthy crutches such as alcohol, overeating, or medications.
- Be alert for signs of depression, the number one mental health problem for family caregivers.
- Nurture your other relationships (spouse and kids, especially). They deserve your attention, and you need them. Find a healthy balance.
- Stay connected with friends, even if just by text. Isolation is bad for your mental and physical health.
Periodically step back and acknowledge all that you do. It’s easy to feel you don’t do enough or aren’t doing things perfectly. Instead, recognize the service you provide. Salute your achievements. You are doing noble work!