The last few blogs have focused on caregiving. We have explored “Is caregiving making you sick?” and “3 ways to cope with the stress of caregiving.” In the final blog of this series… as your healthcare advocate, I want to look at six helpful tips to take care of yourself as the caregiver.

Currently, one in three adults provides informal care to an adult. The typical caregiver is female, still working full-time, raising children, and is providing unpaid care for a family member. She often feels a moderate to high amount of emotional and physical stress as a result of caregiving.

Being a caregiver can offer many rewards; however, the chronic struggle of caring for a loved one can really take a toll on the caregiver. So, let’s take a look at ways you can begin to take care of yourself.

Build a team: Look for ways your extended family and friends can help you.

If someone offers to help then ask the helper what they would be comfortable doing. Maybe they could sit with your loved one while you take time for a walk or run an errand. Maybe they would be willing to provide a meal or pick up a prescription. Building a network of helpers offers support to both the person needing care and the caregiver.

Set limits: Caregivers quickly learn they can’t do it all.

Take the time to make a list of what’s absolutely necessary to do. Say “yes” to all offers of help for grocery shopping, meal planning, and help taking care of the house. Say “no” to tasks that are draining such as hosting large family gatherings.

Find resources: Invest the time in finding out what caregiving resources are available in your community.

Consider contacting your local Area Agency on Aging to find information on in-home caregiving services, transportation services, meal delivery options, or housekeeping services. Geriatric care managers and health advocates are also an excellent resource to help caregivers find assistance. As a health advocate, this area is my specialty!

Join a support group: Being with people in a similar situation can help provide the support and validation you need as a caregiver.

People in support groups understand what you are experiencing. Support groups can also be a great place to develop meaningful friendships.

Take care of your health: You’re in no condition to help someone else if you become overly stressed.

In airplane emergencies, you are instructed to put your oxygen mask on first before helping the person next to you. The same advice holds true for caregivers. You have to remember to put your personal health needs first by getting adequate sleep, finding time to exercise, getting regular check-ups, and eating a healthy diet.

Get respite help: Taking a break from caregiving can be one of the best things you can do for yourself and the person you are caring for.

Respite care can come in the form of hiring in-home caregivers or getting care at an adult day center. Respite care is also available on a short-term basis at local assisted living homes, memory care homes, or nursing homes. Taking advantage of respite care gives you a chance to get away and recharge.

Being a caregiver is something we will all likely face one day. The most important thing we can do as caregivers is realize that we’re not alone. By asking for help you will decrease the feelings of isolation, frustration, depression, and the physical toll it can take on your body.

Severino Health Advisors offers comprehensive care management for caregivers and their loved ones. Call today for a free 15-minute consultation at 717-561-2720 to see how we can help.