Working as a caregiver, whether you are a family member, friend, or trained PCA, HHA, or CNA, you know that the job requires energy, stamina, and compassion. It can be demanding of the caregiver physically, mentally, and emotionally, and oftentimes the caregiver does not take proper care of themselves.
It is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid burn-out, and illness, and not ignore if you are not feeling well, or yourself. Self-care should be a priority for all caregivers. Being healthy allows the caregiver to give the best care they can, and be able to take on challenges the job may present.
Take a second to review the following list, courtesy of the VA's National Caregiver Training Program, and see where you may need to make some improvements in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Eat Well: Nutrition affects the body physically, mentally, and emotionally. If we are not eating for optimum health, it can lead to decreased immunity, fatigue, lack of concentration, and disease. Small changes made to your diet are a benefit, as energy levels will increase, increased concentration, and improved sleep. Be mindful of the foods you put into your body by reading labels, prepare meals ahead of time, pack your lunch, and stock up on healthy snacks. Decrease sugary drinks, processed and prepackaged foods, while increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Be Physically Active: Move around every hour to increase circulation. Set aside time daily, or several times per week to be physically active, as it can reduce stress, and increase alertness. Look for deals at the community recreation center for exercise classes, or go find a friend to walk with around a park. Gardening, walking the dog, and doing household chores can also be a considered physical activity.
- Protect Your Back: Be mindful when lifting anything from the floor or a low surface. Remember to bend your knees, engage your core, and lift with your legs and not your back.
- Get a Good Night's Sleep:
Create a bedtime routine and start winding your day down an hour before heading to bed. Read, meditate, listen to relaxing music, write, or stretch. Avoid caffeine and excessive sugar before bedtime.
- Preventative Care: Make sure to visit your doctor for your annual physical, get routine lab work, cancer screenings, annual eye exams, dental visits, and if you do not feel good, go see your doctor.
Caregivers also need to learn to maintain stress levels, as stress can lead to increased fatigue, lack of concentration, lack of physical activity, and increased risk for illness.
Some ways to combat stress:
- Walk, or exercise
- Garden, do light yard work
- Be out in nature
- Read or Journal
- Listen to music
- Visit with family or friends
- Play a game
Working in an industry that takes care of others often puts taking care of yourself on the back burner. What ways can you start taking care of yourself today?