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Care for the Caregiver

Caregivers often find themselves juggling several duties, so it’s not surprising when they find their own health suffering.

If you’re caring for someone who depends on you, you need to be at your best—healthy and energetic. Yet the sheer amount of time and thought involved in providing care may mean you’ve put yourself at the bottom of your priority list.

When you consider what it takes to be a caregiver, it’s a wonder—and a blessing—so many people make the sacrifice. In taking on this responsibility, caregivers often find themselves juggling several duties, including those of health care provider (administering medication or taking blood pressure), companion, decision maker, bill payer, house cleaner and health advocate. It’s not surprising when caregivers find their own health suffering. Sacrificing emotional and physical health over too long a period can lead to illness and depression.

Studies show the average caregiver provides nearly 18 to 20 hours of care a week in addition to holding down a job and managing a family. That’s a recipe for stress and burnout—unless you take precautions to protect your health. Try following these nine steps to get you on the road to better wellness.

Get medical checkups.
Tell your health care provider about your caregiving commitment.
Get plenty of rest.
Ask for help if caring for someone causes you to scrimp on sleep or get up throughout the night.
Eat a nutritious diet.
Regular, well-balanced meals boost your energy.
Get regular exercise.
Moderate exercise combats stress, increases your energy and provides a mental-health break.
Manage your stress.
Meditate or learn relaxation techniques such as visualization to unwind.
Ask for help.
Assign tasks such as paying bills, picking up prescriptions, doing laundry or driving to doctors’ appointments.
Schedule time for yourself.
Try a change of scenery—take a short drive or see a play or concert.
Be realistic and flexible.
Acknowledge the many good things you’ve done and don’t be hard on yourself for not being able to do everything on your own.
Give up bad habits.
Smoking, drinking or resorting to drugs you don’t need can ruin your health, impair your judgment and potentially hurt you, your loved ones or your friends. Get help if you need to quit.

Providing care to a loved one, though challenging, can be enormously rewarding—but first you have to take good care of yourself.

Get advice on how to ease the burden of caregiving »

Source: Women’s Health Today magazine, Spring, 2006


A Caucasian woman and man sit closely together watching something, her arms are around his neck
Adam Ashcraft, Justin’s brother,
with his wife Shelley