Setting Healthy Caregiver Goals for the Year
As we begin a brand new year, family caregivers might be feeling anything but reinvigorated. The holidays often place additional demands on already overwhelmed caregivers. While most of us resolve to start the new year on a healthier, more positive note, it can be a difficult resolution for caregivers to stick to.
Caring for an aging loved one can be a rewarding role. It gives families a chance to reconnect in meaningful ways. But it is also exhausting—physically and emotionally. Almost one fourth of family caregivers say their own health has declined as a result of juggling so many responsibilities. Those who have been a family caregiver for five years or more rate their own health as fair or poor.
Here are some steps caregivers can take in 2019 that will help them live a healthier lifestyle.
7 New Year’s Resolutions for Family Caregivers
- Change your mindset: Adult children often feel dutybound to care for a senior parent on their own. Asking for help can make many caregivers feel guilty. The same is true for spouses who care for a partner. The truth is, however, that if you don’t ask for and accept help when it is offered, you put your own well-being at risk. You will be a better caregiver when you feel rested and less stressed.
- Take advantage of respite care: Many family caregivers aren’t aware of short-term care services called respite. An older adult can be a guest at an assisted living community for a few days or weeks. They benefit from the same personal care services as long-term residents, in addition to being able to participate in a wide variety of life enrichment programs. Respite guests also enjoy meals in the community’s dining room.
- Schedule a physical: It isn’t uncommon for busy family caregivers to neglect their own healthcare needs. Routine physicals and wellness screenings are often put off. Start the new year off right by scheduling a physical with your primary care physician if you haven’t had one in the last year.
- Get some exercise: Exercise yields many benefits for people of all ages. For caregivers, it can be a great stressbuster. If you can’t find 30 minutes a day to exercise alone, find ways to exercise with the senior you are a caregiver for. Walking, riding a stationary bike, seated aerobics workouts, resistance bands, and yoga can all be adapted to accommodate a variety of fitness levels and physical abilities. If you haven’t been active in recent months, talk with your physician before getting started.
- Watch your diet: Eating on the run often leads to a diet high in fat and sodium. They can leave you feeling sluggish and tired. Fast food and convenience food may also contribute to unhealthy weight gain. A Mediterranean diet or something similar is good for your heart and brain while also being easy to adopt and follow.
- Stay in touch: Loneliness and isolation are challenges many caregivers struggle with, especially if the loved one they care for is housebound. As the new year begins, try to find ways to stay in touch with friends and family. Facetime and Skype can allow you to have virtual face-to-face conversations from your own living room.
- Join a support group: Being part of a group of peers who are experiencing similar caregiving struggles is important. Not only will you be able to share your challenges and ask for advice, you’ll also have an opportunity to learn about local resources you might not be familiar with. If you don’t have time to connect in person, an online support group might be the solution. ALZConnected and the Family Caregiver Alliance are two good resources to explore.
If you are starting to wonder if it’s time to consider an assisted living community for your loved one, you likely have many questions. How to start your search is probably among those questions. “Where to Begin” is a resource page we created to help families. Topics range from how to start difficult aging conversations to how to understand what type of care is the best fit.