Taking care of a senior, whether due to dementia or illness, can be exhausting and stressful. Often due to the lack of outside help, a devotion to the person needing care, or the tunnel vision that can accompany exhaustion, caretakers don’t take care of themselves.
If this describes you, you must take care of yourself. Failure to do so can lead to burn out, injury or illness. If you are the caregiver, any of these results will harm your ability to care for your loved one.
Here are some steps you can take to take care of yourself and make sure you can take care of your loved one:
1. Take a break every day. Make sure you have some down time to relax, whether it’s watching television, reading the newspaper, or calling a friend. Just make sure you do at least one thing for yourself every day.
2. Take a break every week. If possible, get out of the house at least once a week to do something you want to do – go to the movies, have dinner with friends, whatever works for you. If you cannot get someone to cover for you, have friends over to your house.
3. Get respite. Take a break of at least a week at least once a year. You can hire help in the house or arrange for a respite stay at an assisted living facility or nursing home. This may seem expensive, but the alternative can be even more costly.
4. Get regular exercise. It’s necessary for your health and to moderate any stress you may be feeling. If you can’t get out of the house to exercise, buy or rent a stationary bicycle or other exercise equipment.
5. Eat well. Make sure you stay healthy with sufficient energy to do what you need to for your loved one.
You may protest that you don't have time enough time or money for any of these recommendations. I would argue that failure to take these steps will cost you more time and money in the long run. Taking care of yourself is necessary to your being able to maintain your commitment to your loved one.