November is National Family Caregiver Month and the theme this year is, “Caregiving Around the Clock.” What it means is that family caregivers often forget to care for themselves as they take on more and more responsibilities for another person who needs help.
While there can be joy, purpose, and other benefits to helping out a friend or family member who needs assistance, it’s important to stay balanced so you as a caregiver stay healthy. There are more than 65 million Americans who provide care in the home to a loved one, some are children still in school, others are adults with full-time jobs, they can men or women, or they might be retired. Whether a family caregiver is helping with a bath, managing medications, or just being a companion who comes over to play a game and have a few laughs, all caregivers can benefit from self-care.
Family caregivers might jump in during a crisis or slowly over time find themselves doing more and more for someone who is chronically ill or disabled, and as needs don’t abate, put their own lives on the back burner.
Consider these easy ways to care for yourself as a caregiver:
- Budget time for you. Seriously, one report found that 70% of family caregivers didn’t have time to take themselves to their own doctor for a checkup. Put time on the calendar for not just medical appointments, but also a movie night, coffee with a friend, a workout, or even a walk. When time isn’t set aside for self care, it can just slip away as more and more responsibilities pile up.
- Take a nap. Even if you haven’t been a napper, just plan to take 20 minutes to lie down and rest as frequently as you can. Power naps can increase mood, alertness, lead to quicker reaction time and even improve memory function, while also reducing fatigue.
- Embrace technology. No, robots should not replace people, but there might be ways to reduce your workload using devices, apps, or other modern advances that can help with organization and possibly reduce stress.
- Accept offers of help. Be careful in thinking that only you can do this, even if the person you are caring for insists on it only being you. Maybe you can hire a professional caregiver to step in for you for a few hours a week, or another relative can come visit for a week while you take a vacation. Put that superhero cape back in the closet and let this be a team effort.
- Put things in order. Having all medical information in one place and all advance planning legal documents prepared and easy to locate might put everyone’s mind at ease. Each day should not be another crisis to overcome and preparation is the solution to staying calm.
If you aren’t a family caregiver, use this month’s theme to reach out to a family caregiver and tell them how grateful you are for all that they do.