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Every airplane traveler hears the same refusal whenever they take a flight. In case of an emergency, always put on your own oxygen mask before helping another passenger. It’;s the same when you’;re a caregiver, caring for a loved one with a debilitating condition. To take care of others, you first need to take care of yourself.
Unfortunately, caregivers often forget their own needs. Many of them have jobs, then come home to those additional responsibilities. They’;re so busy taking care of their loved one, they do not eat properly, do not find time to exercise, and suffer from lack of sleep. They simply ignore their own health. This can lead not only physical health issues, but also mental and emotional health concerns, such as depression and anxiety.
Here are some ways caregivers can nurture themselves:
Do not try to everything alone! You may need to delegate tasks to other family members, especially if you work outside the home. Check into services that are offered in your community, such as visiting nurses, adult day care or other facilities.
Give yourself a break – you need time to regroup, so find the time to have some fun and relaxation. To relieve stress, try meditation, exercise, yoga; or simply take a nap.
Pay attention to your mental health, and learn to recognize symptoms of stress and depression. Seek professional help for yourself when you need it.
Get emotional support from others – Talk to a friend or relative if you’;re suffering from stress or anxiety about your responsibilities. If you need to, find a support group – ask a medical professional or search for one online.
Take care of yourself physically – Eat healthy foods, walk or do some other form of exercise. Exercise will help manage stress and the "blues." Do not forget your own doctor visits to keep up with your own health and wellness needs.
Take classes or workshops to learn more about providing care for your loved one. Organizations such as the Alzheimer’;s Association and the Caregiver Action Network are wonderful resources. The American Red Cross provides free family caregiver classes.
There may be financial and medical decisions that need to be made for the future. Educate yourself about these things so you have a plan.
Thanks to the Internet, a simple Google search can provide today’;s caregivers with a wide variety of trusted resources that can help them, as well as their loved ones.