Care for the caregiver

Guest Column
Leann Herman
Monticello Nursing & Rehab Campus

     Caring for yourself is one of the most important, and one of the most often forgotten, things you can do as a caregiver. Many caregivers struggle with attending to their own health and well being while managing the responsibilities of caring for a loved one. Family caregivers report sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, postponing their own medical appointments, and depression. Caregivers are more likely than non-caregivers to have a chronic illness, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.

     Caregiving can also be an emotional rollercoaster. It can be a very rewarding experience, strengthening the love and commitment you feel toward your loved one. On the other hand, it can be very demanding, frustrating and lonely. At times do you feel resentful about your situation? Do you feel guilty when you are attending to your own needs? Do you have trouble asking for help? Does asking for help make you feel inadequate? Do you feel totally responsible for your loved one’s health? Because we base our behavior on our thoughts and beliefs, it’s very important to understand how these beliefs get in the way of good self-care. Once you’ve identified your own personal barriers, you can begin to take steps to find a better balance in your life and take care of yourself.

     Here are a few suggestions in taking those steps: Find out what community resources are available to assist you with some of your caregiving responsibilities. Something as easy as having lunch delivered daily may relieve some stress and decrease responsibility of meal planning and preparation. Employing a provider to come into your home to assist with bathing a few times a week might also make a big difference in your stress level. Ask family members and friends to help so you can take a break and engage in activities that you enjoy. Talk with other caretakers or attend your local support group. Physical activity is a great way to relieve stress, even if it’s a 10-minute walk. Use relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or breathing exercises to slow down and calm the mind and body. Set goals for yourself to practice good self-care.

     For more information on caregiver support, contact Leann at MNRC, 319-465-5415.


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