Caring for Caregivers
10 tips on caring for yourself

There's nothing selfish about taking care of yourself as a caregiver. In fact, your loved one with Alzheimer's disease is counting on you to do so. The following is a list of ideas for you to consider in your efforts to protect yourself against the potential for caregiver burnout and other health issues. Remember the time you spend on yourself isn't time taken from caregiving. It is time necessary to allow you to carry on as a caregiver.

  1. Eat nutritious meals and snack

    It's easy to fall into poor eating habits when you're extremely busy. Make an effort to have proper meals and to limit junk food snacking - you'll need to replace whatever your busy lifestyle takes out of you with real nutrition, not just empty calories. And at the most basic level remember to eat something. Don't skip meals, you will need your strength.
  2. Get regular exercise

    As good for your mind as it is for your body, exercise is key to maintaining your stamina while caregiving. Exercise can be as simple as 3 or more brisk 20 minute walks a week, or as involved as joining an exercise class or gym. Just do whatever works for you and your schedule.
  3. Find ways to relax

    Caregivers need down time to recharge. If you're lucky enough to be able to do this with your loved one with Alzheimer's, such as watching a movie or going for a walk, all the better. Just make sure you work relaxation into your life on a regular basis. Alone time is also important, so try to make sure you take some time just for yourself.
  4. Get enough sleep

    Nothing is as restorative as a good night's sleep. It gives your body a chance to repair itself and your mind a chance to recharge. Without enough rest, you are more likely to fall ill or have things slip your mind.
  5. Make regular medical and dental appointments

    Just because you are very busy, doesn't mean you should put off visiting your doctor and dentist. Making time for check-ups is a priority and will help you maintain your good health.
  6. Take regular breaks from caregiving

    Whether it's going out to dinner, reading for a few hours on your own, or getting away for a week at a time, you will need a real break from your caregiving duties, and on a regular basis. It will help you return to your loved one refreshed and better ready to manage his care.
  7. Stay in touch with friends and family

    Don't fall into the trap of isolation. Socializing is a great way to unwind, and connecting with others by talking about your successes and frustrations as a caregiver, or about whatever comes to mind, is a perfect way to avoid feeling lonely or unsupported.
  8. Keep up your interests or hobbies

    Familiar activities that you have cultivated over time are a great way to escape the challenges you face as a caregiver. Be sure to engage in these activities whenever you have the chance, or to make the time. If you don't have any hobbies, try to find one that involves connecting with other people.
  9. Recognize the warning signs of stress early

    Stress can build up gradually, and take a devastating toll along the way. Try to watch for the early signs of caregiver stress, some examples of which you can find here.
  10. Ask for and accept help

    You shouldn't try to do it all on your own. Identify areas of care that you can delegate, and accept help whenever it is offered. Try for asking for help before it's even offered. This will allow for some of the time you need for yourself.
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