As we head in to a shiny new year, weary family caregivers may be feeling anything but reinvigorated. Without a doubt, caring for an aging loved one can be exhausting on many levels: physically, financially and emotionally.
Juggling the responsibilities of caregiving with an already busy life can take a toll on the caregiver. In fact, 23% of family caregivers report their own health as being fair or poor after just five years of providing care for a loved one.
But there are steps Seattle area family caregivers can take to make the role more manageable in the new year.
6 Resolutions for a Family Caregiver to Make in 2017
Here are a few suggestions to consider this year:
- Ask for and accept help. While this may be one of the healthiest steps a family caregiver can take, it is often the most difficult one. Adult children frequently think caring for an aging parent is their duty and theirs alone. The parent who cared for them when they were a child now needs help. A child may feel that asking for and accepting help shows a lack of dedication to their loved one.
A healthier way to think of the family caregiver role is to remind yourself that if you don’t allow others to assist with caregiving tasks you are more likely to experience a health crisis of your own. And if that should happen, who will care for your loved one?
If you don’t have any close family or friends who can pitch in to help, many of the senior living communities in and around western Washington offer respite care services. These short-term stays are designed to give family caregivers a break.
- Schedule a physical with your doctor. Family caregivers are notorious for putting their own health care needs on the backburner. This often includes keeping up with routine wellness screenings and an annual physical.
Make it one of your resolutions for 2017 to schedule a wellness visit with your primary care physician. In addition to conducting a physical, the doctor will make recommendations for the screenings you need so you can get them scheduled in the new year.
- Get moving! Exercise is one of the very best ways to reduce stress. The endorphins released by your body when you exercise act as natural a mood booster and stress reducer.
Talk with your physician to see what type of and how much exercise they recommend each week. For most people, thirty minutes of daily exercise will be the goal.
The good news is that you can break that exercise up in to smaller amounts of time and still receive the same health benefits. So a fifteen minute walk in the morning combined with a fifteen minute bike ride in the afternoon will help you as much as thirty straight minutes of exercise.
- Commit to eating a balanced diet. Good nutrition is important to all of us. But in times of stress, it is even more so. The USDA has a helpful nutrition site called Choose My Plate where they share nutritional resources for children and adults of all ages. It can help you with meal planning for yourself and for the older adult you provide care for.
- Stay socially connected. The social isolation caregiving sometimes creates can leave caregivers feeling melancholy and burned out. In the new year, make a resolution to enjoy a night out with friends and loved ones at least once or twice a month. You can stay connected on a daily basis by using social media and video chat services like Skype.
- Join an online caregiver support group. Online caregiver forums and support groups are other options for caregivers to feel supported. Connecting with adults who are experiencing struggles similar to yours may help you better manage the emotional and physical demands of the role. Two popular sites to search for a group you feel comfortable joining are Family Caregiver Alliance or Caring.com.
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